“The government is in your hands. All the police and investigating agencies are with you. The CBI, Enforcement Directorate, IB and I-T department are with you. If you have the courage why don’t you arrest me,” was the open challenge by Arvind Kejriwal, Founder Aam Aadmi Party to BJP and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – the party that claims to be the only honest party in the country was recently accused of a funding scam by its opponent Bharatiya Janata Party. The news broke out in the media and on Twitter just five days before the Delhi elections where both the parties are fighting a tough battle to topple down each other.
The matter came into limelight when AAP Volunteer Action Manch (AVAM), a group that earlier broke away from the AAP, claimed that the latter had received Rs two crore from bogus companies. Backed by BJP the charges claimed that AAP has received Rs 50 lakh each from four companies that were non-existent and the party was in fact indulging in money laundering.
AVAM accuses AAP of money laundering
Accusing AAP of money laundering, AVAM stated, “All these four donations…were received on April 5, 2014 at 12:00 am. All the four companies mentioned on the AAP website are bogus,” it said.
BJP leaders including Shazia Ilmi, who quit AAP in May 2014 and recently joined the BJP, called it a “Hawala at midnight” because the AAP website showed the transactions materializing at midnight, and alleged that shell companies were routing black money to AAP.
Cashing in on AAP’s funding controversy, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi said AAP is a “misleading” party which has been “exposed”. “They have been exposed. Those people can’t understand themselves where all this money is coming from, they are in no position to give answers now! These people are misleading, from now on tell these people our sister, mother, daughter is coming.”
Time and again AAP has clarified that a lot of money came from offshore donors, even earlier when questions were raised. The party had put in the best possible safeguards: donations all in white – cheques/drafts, debit/credit cards and bank transfers – and overseas contributors ought to be Indian citizens.
Besides in all this mud-slinging and defaming AAP, BJP didn’t mention that the details came from the AAP itself because the party has an open system of listing its donations on its website. The company names and moneys were posted on its website.
Backlash with #HawalaAtMidnight
However the damage was done, #HawalaAtMidnight and #AAPFundingScam later being popularized by TimesNow and Times Of India were the top trends for the last few days on Twitter and Facebook.
Days after #HawalaAtMidnight AAP still hasn’t sued 4 “fake” companies for donating 2 cr. Odd for such a litigious party
— Minhaz Merchant (@minhazmerchant) February 5, 2015
— Pawan Durani (@PawanDurani) February 3, 2015
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) February 3, 2015
— IndiaSpeaks (@IndiaSpeaksPR) February 3, 2015
— Kiran Kumar S (@KiranKS) February 2, 2015
AAP uses social media to make its stand clear
While the AAP leader called it a “vicious attack” from BJP and refuted the allegations, he made sure the same words go out on social media. The primary Facebook page of AAP, AAP Delhi and the subsequent Twitter pages of the party worked in tandem. The Facebook page was used to inform and educate the masses that the allegations are false and cooked up by BJP, Twitter was used to trend #JawabDoAVAM to compete with #HawalaAtMidnight and #AAPFundingScam.
AAP’s Delhi Facebook page which has more than 620K fans had this bold visual on the funding scam claiming that the party has nothing to hide. The visual talks about how AAP checks about the donation made to the party.
It also countered the allegation made by our Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, this time it was Arvind himself daring the minister to arrest him if his party has taken hawala money.
While BJP went silent on arresting Arvind, AAP played the masterstroke by demanding an SIT probe monitored by the Hon’ble Supreme Court into the funding of all political parties, particularly the BJP, Congress and the AAP.
Arun Jaitley debunked the idea of probing since he felt that it wouldn’t be wise to bring courts into dirty business of politics.
On Twitter AAP demanded proof and made sure to debunk all the allegations along with #JawabDoAVAM.
— Aam Aadmi Party (@AamAadmiParty) February 3, 2015
To put 50 lakh in an Indian bank without being detected is making mockery of our bank system. It’s not possible: @MeeraSanyal
— Aam Aadmi Party (@AamAadmiParty) February 3, 2015
The party also credited BJP to opening up the debate of party funding and stated that the fresh round of controversy has only increased its funding as it managed to collect over Rs 66 lakh in donations on 3rd February – doubling its daily average – just after the allegations surfaced.
Thanks to BJP for the attacks on AAP finances. Total donation today crossed Rs 65lakh. Expecting another venomous cartoon tomorrow. — Aam Aadmi Party (@AamAadmiParty) February 3, 2015
Almost 75 per cent of the funds of India’s six national political parties — Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) — comes from ‘unknown’ sources, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
Political funding and the grime state
Reported by BS, “Of the total income of parties between 2004-05 and 2011-12 amounting to Rs 4,895 crore, as much as Rs 3,674 crore came from funds whose sources are unknown, said ADR.
NDTV studied the thousands of AAP donations over the past year to learn that only 15 donations were over Rs 10 lakh. The party says donations above Rs 10 lakh are screened by its Political Affairs Committee. “At the higher level of the political party, we take a look at any big amount and check if it comes with any strings attached. If it does, it has to be returned,” said party leader Yogendra Yadav, a member of the committee.
Ironically NDTV could do this investigation because AAP is the only party that lists its donors clearly on the website, other prominent parties are yet to accept the same culture.
This is because the catch lies in the Rs 20,000-bar as detailed by G Pramod Kumar for FP, “In any contribution that is less than Rs 20,000, the source doesn’t need to be disclosed. Consequently, most of the receipts of Indian political parties, including the BJP, fall into this category. One could easily assume that millions could be broken down into multiples of Rs 20,000 and routed to political parties, including the BJP. Does one ever know if it was a few millions or a few thousands and the motives as future policy pay-backs?”
Going further APP will have to give a thought – what if some sources of funds turn out to be dubious. What if someone wants to defame the AAP and hence sent money from bogus sources or if someone wants to genuinely help but possibly by bad money.
However, this alleged scam if true raises questions on our banking system. “If somebody is operating a fake bank account, what happened to all the KYC norms that banks are supposed to comply with? If huge amounts of cash are being deposited in accounts and then being paid through cheques, what happened to the directive to banks to report all such transactions to the I-T department? If people are doing this with impunity, why is just the common man required to mention his PAN?” writes Sandipan Sharma at FP.
It isn’t the first time that political parties are questioning about AAP’s funding sources but shouldn’t the common man of this country who has elected these politicians have the right to know where all the funds come from. “Why can’t the public get to know about the funding of parties when this is the practice in many countries including smaller ones like Nepal and Bhutan in our neighborhood,” asked Trilochan Sastry of the ADR. “ADR recommends that full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the Right to Information,” he said.
AAP is ready for a probe what is stopping BJP and Congress if they really think that they are here to serve the people of India.
Once again #HawalaAtMidnight is also the latest example of irresponsible media coverage of political corruption. With no evidence offered by AVAM, the group that made the allegations has now been slapped by civil as well as criminal action by an AAP donor Jaskirat Mann. She said the cheques shown by AVAM to media were fake. “Fake cheques were presented by AVAM or whoever that person who has given them to AVAM. So I want clarification from AVAM within 24 hours. They have to show me where these cheques have been deposited.”
While it will be too early to state who wins the upcoming Delhi Elections, AAP clearly has reversed the #HawalaAtMidnight allegation in its favour. Once again it has come up as a much stronger party at least on the grounds of openness.