Finance Minister Defends Electoral Bonds, Talks Economy and Crypto

New Delhi: Slamming the criticism over electoral bonds, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Friday said that the links between any probe agency raids and electoral bonds were mere ‘assumptions’. “I think you’ve based yourself on huge assumptions, that the money was given after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid happened. For all you know, the money was given earlier, and despite that, we went knocking at their doors...,” she said at a conclave, while commenting on a question about the link between purchase of electoral bonds and ED actions.

Besides, the finance minister exuded confidence in the growth of the Indian economy and also replied to a host of queries relating mostly on stock market movement and crypto assets among other issues. When asked about the market fluctuations in the bourses, she said that despite huge fluctuations globally, the Indian stock market has maintained “a certain level of sanity” and the market should be allowed to play on its own.

As far as the issues on electoral bonds are concerned, Ms Sitharaman termed the electoral bond as “white money” and it's quite transparent in the system where funds are routed to any political party. “On any link, what if the companies gave the money, and after that, we still went and knocked at their doors through the ED? That's an assumption that the ED went and knocked at their doors, they wanted to save themselves, and therefore they came up with the funds. The second assumption in itself is, are you sure they gave it to the BJP? They probably gave it to the regional parties,” the finance minister said.

The finance minister further said that on Friday, the Supreme Court said the State Bank of India should have disclosed the unique alpha-numeric numbers of the electoral bonds received by political parties and sought the bank's response. “The case is still in court, the verdict has come and the State Bank of India will submit what it has to. But, were the earlier systems 100 percent perfect?” the minister asked.

“Let us just recall what my predecessor (former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley), when he brought these electoral bonds, said, 'this is better than the previous systems as the money is going from accounts to party's account'. It's not a perfect system, but we have moved from a system where everyone did what they want to do,” the finance minister said, adding, a system which was not perfect, from a system which was completely imperfect, was brought in.

Elaborating on stock markets’ movement, she said despite huge fluctuations globally, the Indian stock market has maintained a certain level of sanity. Her statement comes days after Sebi chairperson Madhabi Puri Buch had said that there are pockets of froth in the small and midcap stocks and the regulator is looking into the same to come out with a possible consultation paper.

“I allow the markets to play on their own. We should leave it to the wisdom of the market because all of us have seen that despite huge fluctuations globally, the Indian market has maintained a certain level of sanity. It hasn't really gone too violent this way or that way. So, I place a lot of trust in the market,” she added.

On Crypto assets, Ms Sitharaman also said, they cannot be currencies and that's the government of India position. “Currencies are to be issued by the government or the central bank of the day. Crypto assets are technology-driven and have a bearing on cross-border payment and a comprehensive regulatory framework around such assets has been considered at the G20 level,” the finance minister said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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