Electoral Bonds: Indian political parties received $1.5 bn since 2019; BJP biggest earner, lottery firm top donor with $164 million

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU–

Indian political parties received more than ₹12,769 crore ($1.5 billion) as donations from corporates and individuals through electoral bonds since 2019. The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday made public the data on electoral bonds provided by the State Bank of India (SBI). According to the data, political parties encashed a total of 20,421 electoral bonds in the last five years. Of these, 12,207 bonds were of $120,525 each; 5,366 bonds of $12,000 each; 2,526 bonds of $1,200 each; 219 bonds of $120 each; and 103 were of $12 each.

Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Chandrachud

READ: India’s Supreme Court strikes down controversial Electoral Bonds scheme that benefitted political parties

The BJP received maximum ₹60,605,111,000 ($730 million) as donations through electoral bonds, which is almost half of the total amount. The party encashed 5,854 bonds of $120,525 each and 1,994 bonds of $12,000 each. Apart from bonds of $1200 and $120, it also encashed 31 bonds worth $12 each.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) secured the second spot and redeemed 3,275 electoral bonds worth ₹16,095,014,000 ($193 million), of which 1,467 were of $120,525 each and 1,384 bonds were of $12,000 each.

The Indian National Congress (INC) encashed 3,141 electoral bonds worth ₹14,218,650,000 ($171 million), which included 1,318 bonds of $120,525 each and 958 bonds of ₹12,000 each.

Future Gaming and Hotel Services, whose director is the lottery magnate Santiago Martin, is the top purchaser of electoral bonds having purchased bonds worth ₹1,368 crore ($164.8 million), according to data uploaded by the Election Commission of India on its website on Thursday.

Megha Engineering Infrastructure Limited donated ₹966 crore ($116 million). As per the company website Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Limited (MEIL) is a major infrastructure company headquartered in Hyderabad, India. The company was established in 1989.

Qwik Supply Chain Private Limited donated ₹409 crore ($49 million), Haldia Energy Limited donated ₹377 crore ($45.8 million), Vedanta Limited ₹375.65 crore ($45.2 million) and Bharti Airtel Limited ₹198 crore ($23 million).

Most prominent parties have been beneficiaries of the scheme. They include the Bharatiya Janata Party, INC, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), Shiv Sena, YSR Congress Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Jana Sena Party.

According to SBI and ECI data, other donors include Finolex Cables Ltd, Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, Edelweiss Housing Finance Ltd, GHCL Ltd, Jindal Poly Films Limited, ITC Limited and Vedanta Limited, Grasim Industries Limited PR, Piramal Capital and Housing Finance Limited, Piramal Enterprises Ltd, Muthoot Finance Limited, Pegasus Properties Private Limited, Bajaj Finance Ltd, Bharti Airtel Limited, Apollo Tyres Limited and SpiceJet Limited, JK Cement Ltd, DLF Commercial Developers Limited, Avon Cycles Ltd, Zydus Healthcare Limited, Cipla Limited, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd, Mankind Pharma Limited, Qwik Supply Chain Private Limited, Haldia Energy Limited, Essel Mining and Industry Limited, Western UP Power Transmission Company Limited. Keventer Food Parks Limited, Jindal Steel and Power Limited, BG Shirke Construction Technology Pvt Ltd, Rungta Sons Pvt Ltd and Torrent Power Limited.

ECI issued a press note providing the link on which the data provided by the SBI can be accessed.

The poll panel uploaded details of electoral bonds submitted by the State Bank of India in two parts. The first part includes the name of the purchaser of the electoral bond, date, and denomination. The second list has the date of encashment, name of the political party and denomination.

The Election Commission of India said, “In compliance of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s directions, contained in its order dated Feb 15 and March 11, 2024 (in the matter of WPC NO.880 of 2017), the State Bank of India (SBI) had provided the data pertaining to the electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on March 12, 2024.”

It said that it has “consistently and categorically weighed in favour of disclosure and transparency”, a position reflected in the proceedings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and noted in the order also.

The Chairman of State Bank of India filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on Wednesday apprising that in compliance with the court’s order, date of purchase of each electoral bond, the name of the purchaser and the denomination of the electoral bond purchased has been furnished to the Election Commission of India.

SBI said that the data has been furnished in respect of bonds purchased and redeemed between April 12, 2019 to February 15, 2024.

A total of 22,217 bonds were purchased during the period April 1, 2019, till February 15, 2024, SBI told the Supreme Court.

A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra had unanimously quashed the electoral bonds scheme as well as amendments made to the Income Tax Act and the Representation of People Act which had made the donations anonymous.

It had asked SBI to furnish details and the details about each electoral bond encashed by the political parties, which shall include the date of encashment and the denomination of electoral bond.

An electoral bond was an instrument in the nature of a promissory note or bearer bond which can be purchased by any individual, company, firm or association of persons provided the person or body is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India. The bonds were issued specifically for the purpose of contribution of funds to political parties.

These bonds were issued/purchased for any value, in multiples of ₹1,000 ($12), ₹10,000 ($120), ₹100,000 ($1200), ₹1,000,000 ($12,000) and ₹100,00,000 ($120,525) from the specified branches of the State Bank of India (SBI).

Various petitions were filed before the top court challenging amendments made to different statutes through Finance Act 2017 and Finance Act 2016 on the ground that they have opened doors to unlimited, unchecked funding of political parties.

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