No polls, no problem for donors: Parties get Rs 648.48 crore in election bonds in April

Political parties continue to receive funds from benevolent donors even during the non-election period as they received election bonds worth Rs 648.48 crore from donors in April, according to state data. Bank of India (SBI). With this, political parties have cashed in bonds worth a total of Rs 9,836 crore from various donors in 20 phases since 2018 when the election bond system was introduced.

As much as Rs 640 crore of bonds had a face value of Rs 1 crore each and Rs 7.90 crore of bonds had a face value of Rs 10 lakh each, SBI – the only bank authorized to sell these bonds – said in response to RTI request filed by Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd). During the 20th phase, issued between April 1 and 10, SBI sold a total of 811 bonds, including 640 bonds worth Rs 1 crore each. These bonds have all been redeemed by political parties.

In accordance with the provisions of the EB programme, only political parties registered under section 29A of the Representation of the People Act 1951 (43 of 1951) and which obtained at least one percent of the votes cast in the last election generals to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly, as the case may be, are eligible to receive electoral bonds.

SBI data shows that up to Rs 420.98 crore of bonds were encashed at SBI main branch in Hyderabad, Rs 106.50 crore at main branch in New Delhi, Rs 100 crore at main branch in Chennai and Rs 18 crore to the main Kolkata branch of the state-run bank.

Two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in India – Common Cause and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) – have legally challenged the program launched in 2018.

They, along with several other critics, have alleged that the introduction of mandatory voting “distorts democracy” in India. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a pending plea challenging the scheme. Only 23 political parties are eligible for reimbursement of electoral vouchers.

According to the ADR, should the scheme continue, the principle of anonymity of the bond giver enshrined in the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 should be removed. “All political parties that receive donations through campaign bonds must report in their contribution reports the total amount of such donations received during the given financial year, together with details of the donors in relation to each bond. ; the amount of each such bond and full details of the credit received for each bond,” ADR said in a statement.

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Donors gave Rs 1,056.73 crore in 2018, Rs 5,071.99 crore in 2019, Rs 363.96 crore in 2020, Rs 1,502.29 crore in 2021 and Rs 1,862 crore in 2022 , SBI had said.

Election bonds are purchased anonymously by donors and are valid for 15 days from the date of issue. A debt security, these can be purchased by donors from a bank, and the political party can then cash them. These can only be redeemed by an eligible party by depositing them into their designated account with a bank. The bonds are issued by SBI in denominations of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore.

What has baffled observers is why people are donating funds through election bonds when there are no elections on the horizon. Even major political parties have not disclosed the amount they received in the form of campaign bonds. Also, because the bonds are sold through a public sector bank, the government will know who is funding which political party, critics say.

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