Electoral bonds worth ₹545 crore sold ahead of Himachal, Gujarat polls
New Delhi Electoral bonds worth ₹545
New Delhi Electoral bonds worth ₹545.25 crore have been sold between October 1 and 10, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) getting the bulk of the contributions, data acquired under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has shown.
Electoral bonds have been pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties as part of efforts to bring transparency in political funding.
The State Bank of India (SBI), the only authorised bank to issue and encash electoral bonds, notified sale of the bonds in the 22nd phase from October 1. Sale of the first batch of electoral bonds happened from March 1-10, 2018.
In response to an RTI application filed by Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), the SBI has said that a total of 741 electoral bonds have been sold during the 22nd tranche, 96% of which were of the denomination of ₹1 crore each. Almost 90% of the electoral bonds went to four parties -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Trinamool Congress, it said.
HT has seen the RTI reply
As of March this year, 25 political parties have opened special current accounts to redeem and encash electoral bonds, the SBI said in its reply, while declining to name the parties as the accounts are held in a fiduciary capacity.
“25 political parties have opened their account for the purpose of encashing Electoral Bonds till date. (Accounts are bc’ing opened at the branches after obtaining approval from TE Deptt.),” the reply stated.
The development comes ahead of assembly elections to Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat later this year.
The electoral bond scheme, first floated in 2017 and implemented in 2018, has met with criticism for lacking transparency. Those opposed to it have also asserted that a large chunk of the donations have gone to the BJP, the ruling party. In 2019-20, the BJP received over 75% of the electoral bonds, according to the Election Commission data. The critics have also argued that since the bonds are sold through a government-owned bank there is a possibility that the party in power can find out who is funding their political rivals
Sold four times a year ( in January, April, July and October), electoral bonds allow political parties to accept money from donors whose identities are kept anonymous. They are re sold in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh, and ₹1 crore.
SBI is the sole authorised bank to sell and redeem the bonds. Customers of other banks can also purchase the bonds via different payment channels provided to them. However, a political party can only redeem the bond from one of the 29 authorised branches of the bank.
A political party must also have at least 1% vote share in most recent general elections or assembly elections to receive donations via electoral bonds.
A petition seeking a stay on the sale of the bonds is pending before the Supreme Court.
On October 14, 2022, the Supreme Court asked the central government whether the electoral bonds’ scheme reveals the source of money pumped in to fund political parties even as the Centre repeatedly maintained that the scheme is “absolutely transparent”.
The court is scheduled to hear the matter on December 6.