Only 23 of 105 parties can get, encash electoral bonds: RTI response
In response to an RTI application filed by Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), State Bank of India said that only 23 political parties have opened a special current account made for redeeming and enchasing electoral bonds as of March this year.
Of the 105 political parties that submitted data regarding receiving electoral bonds to the Election Commission of India, only 23 are eligible to receive and encash these, data shared under the right to information (RTI) act reveals. It isn’t known how many of the 105 actually received any bonds at all. Publicly available data shows that almost 90% of electoral bonds went to four parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Trinamool Congress, with the first getting the bulk of the contributions.
In response to an RTI application filed by Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), State Bank of India said that only 23 political parties have opened a special current account made for redeeming and enchasing electoral bonds as of March this year. SBI declined to name the parties as the accounts are held in a fiduciary capacity.
The Election Commission did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Electoral bonds are sold four times a year, January, April, July and October, and allow political parties to accept money from donors whose identities are kept anonymous. SBI is the sole authorised bank by the government to sell and redeem these 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 authorized 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.
The scheme was first floated in 2017, implemented in 2018, and has since met with criticism for lacking transparency. Those opposed to the scheme have also asserted that nearly 95% of the money donated has gone to the national political hegemon, the BJP. A petition seeking a stay on the sale of the bonds is pending before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of India in its interim order dated April 12, 2019 in the matter of Association for Democratic Reforms & Anr. v/s Union of India & Ors. (2015) said: “All the political parties who have received donations through Electoral Bonds till date to submit to the Election Commission of India (ECI) in sealed cover, detailed particulars of the donors as against the each Bond; the amount of each such bond and the full particulars of the credit received against each bond, namely, the particulars of the bank account to which the amount has been credited and the date of each such credit. The above details will be furnished forthwith in respect of Electoral Bonds received by a political party till date. The details of such other bonds that may be received by such a political party up to the date fixed for issuing such bonds as per the Note of the Ministry of Finance dated 28.2.2019, i.e., 15.5.19 will be submitted on or before 30th May, 2019.”
An affidavit containing the details of the 105 parties that shared the data was submitted to the Supreme Court by EC in sealed cover. It stated that seven national parties, three state units of national parties, 20 state parties and 75 unrecognised political parties furnished their details.
According to Batra, the scheme promotes opacity in the sale of electoral bonds. “The entire scheme is premised on denying access, clearly no verification has also been done to ensure the right parties are getting registered.”
Electoral bonds worth ₹3429.56 crore were redeemed by parties in FY 2019-20, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms. Of this, 87.29% was received by four National Parties, BJP, Congress, TMC, and NCP.
The BJP received the lion’s share, or ₹2,555 crore of this.