Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This #AntiBlackMoneyDay, It's Important to Link Political Donations to Aadhar

Do you know Ankit Gupta? I don't.

If I don't know him, why am I talking about him?

I am talking about him because I get a mail from him every day to link my Aadhar card to all my bank accounts. While the mail has his name, it basically comes from the private sector bank, I primarily deal with.

The mail goes on to point: "As per Government of India Gazette No. 13012/79/2017/Legal-UIDAI (No. 4 of 2017), it is mandatory to link your Aadhaar card to all your bank accounts. Please ensure you do it at the earliest so that your account remains active." Nowhere does the mail say that the last date to do so is December 31, 2017.

And if this weren't enough, I also get mails from mobile service provider to link my mobile number to my Aadhar card. These mails are slightly less aggressive than the ones being sent out by the private bank I deal with.

It is almost impossible to carry out any transaction with the government without an Aadhar card. If there is a birth an Aadhar card is needed. If someone dies an Aadhar card is needed, as well.

In fact, when the Aadhar card was first introduced it was claimed that "it is a voluntary facility". But that is not how things have eventually turned out to be. As Jean Dreze writes in his new book Sense and Solidarity-Jholawala Economics for Everyone: "A tacit understanding quickly emerged that while Aadhar was voluntary in principle, it was due to become essential for everyone who wanted to function - get a driving licence, transfer property, have a civil marriage, or just get paid as an NREGA worker. In short, frankly speaking, it was compulsory."

In fact, in my case, I got an Aadhar card finally made, when applying for an ISBN for my book India's Big Government. An Aadhar was compulsory. You couldn't apply for an ISBN without an Aadhar card. Why is an Aadhar card necessary to apply for an ISBN for a book? What is the connect? What is the government trying to achieve through this? These are questions I am still asking myself.

While ordinary citizens, like you and I, need to keep showing and linking our Aadhar card everywhere, the same does not apply to politicians and political parties while seeking political donations. In his new book How the BJP Wins-Inside India's Greatest Election Machine, Prashant Jha goes into detail on how political parties raise money to fight elections.

First and foremost, the candidate fighting the election needs to be economically strong, invest his own money and at the same time have networks with local businessmen who are willing to finance his electoral campaign. Of course, the businessmen who finance candidates do so in cash.

As Jha writes: "Major state-level businessmen are the second source of funding. And they contribute in various forms. They give cash - this is particularly true for contractors, builders, those dependent on government largesse and licenses in future."

In fact, some state level political parties, auction seats to the highest bidder. So, other than needing cash to fight an election, the prospective candidate also needs cash to get a ticket in the first place.

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