"Earlier Cash-Filled Sacks...": Union Minister Defends Poll Bonds Scheme

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the electoral bond scheme, saying it was introduced through a law passed in Parliament.

'Earlier Cash-Filled Sacks...': Union Minister Defends Poll Bonds Scheme

Nirmala Sitharaman says the Centre has taken continuous steps to reduce inflation. (FILE)


Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday targeted the Congress for dropping the restoration of the old pension scheme that it promised in many states from its Lok Sabha election manifesto, saying the party is an expert in misleading people for votes.

The senior BJP leader also defended the electoral bond scheme, saying it was introduced through a law passed in Parliament and was a better system as the transfer of money was visible in accounts instead of the earlier practice when cash-filled "sacks" and "suitcases" were given to parties.

"Whether the system is perfect is a different matter, but it is a better system than what was there earlier because money will be visible in the accounts on both sides," she said at a press conference.

Rejecting the opposition's criticism over rising prices, she said the Centre's record is clear as it has taken continuous steps to reduce inflation and efforts are being made to reduce it further.

She hit out at the previous Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan on the issue of restoring the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), saying it made a "wrong and impossible" promise and tried to implement it even though its own party people had told it not to do so.

"Congress party is expert in making promises just for the sake of elections, misleading the public, taking votes and then forgetting about it," Ms Sitharaman told reporters.

The Gehlot government implemented OPS in place of the New Pension Scheme (NPS). She said that the Congress made the same promise in the Himachal elections and won there. After its implementation in Rajasthan, the minister said, the then chief minister asked that the money that went to the central pool through NPS should be returned.

"Even then I said that money cannot be returned to the state government. That money is employees' money. That will go to the employees and not to the government," she said.

The minister said that the Congress party has not included the OPS issue in its manifesto for this Lok Sabha election.

"Make promises, mislead the people, take votes, come to power, this is the way of Congress. This is the attitude of Congress, not ours," she said.

She alleged that Mr Gehlot created hurdles in implementing the East Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP).

On the opposition's criticism over inflation, she said, "From 2014 till today, except for one or two months in ten years, inflation has remained below 'tolerance band' of six per cent." "I want to remind that in the 10 years from 2004 to 2014, inflation was in double digits for 22 months, food inflation was around 12 per cent at that time. Just look at the figures of last month, retail inflation is less than four per cent," the BJP leader said.

She said that despite this, the government is working hard to give relief to people by importing commodities, whenever necessary.

"Prime Minister Modi never remains silent on the issue of inflation. He always asks the 'Group of Ministers' about what it has been doing. We are continuously trying to control inflation that affects things that are meant for the common people," she said.

On the scrapped electoral bonds scheme, she said that this system was created by passing a law after discussion in the Parliament and every political party took advantage of it legally.

"Before the electoral bonds, there was no structure. You can take sackfuls of cash to political parties, or carry them in suitcases, or give gold or flat. There was no control whatsoever.

"After discussion in Parliament, this solution was found. In this, money flows from 'account to account' from the buyer of the bond to the one who redeems it. This system has come after the legislation was passed in Parliament," she said.

After the decision of the Supreme Court to scrap the scheme, "one can say anything to create a political twist but every party has taken advantage of it", she stressed.

Ms Sitharaman was on a day-long visit to Jaipur on Tuesday. She earlier addressed the Enlightenment Conference and 'Industrial and Business Dialogue' here. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)