Since the electoral bond scheme was launched in 2018, the highest amount of them have been sold in Mumbai, but most were encashed in New Delhi, data from a Right to Information reply has showed.
Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from a bank and donate to any eligible political party, which can then redeem them for money.
The scheme was announced by former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who claimed that the central government wanted to clean up political funding and make it a transparent process. However, the entire process is anonymous since no one is required to declare their purchase of these interest-free bonds and political parties do not need to show the source of the money.
In response to an RTI application filed by transparency activist Retired Commodore Lokesh Batra, the finance ministry’s Department of Economic Affairs has said that electoral bonds worth more than Rs 10,791 crore have been sold since the roll out of the scheme in 2018.
Over Rs 2,742 crore worth of electoral bonds have been sold by the State Bank of India in Mumbai, followed by over than Rs 2,387 crore in Kolkata and more Rs 1,885 crore in Hyderabad. The government-owned bank is the only entity authorised to sell electoral bonds.
The lowest sale of electoral bonds valued at Rs 80 lakh was recorded in Patna, RTI data shared by the activist showed.
Of the electoral bonds worth Rs 10,791 crore that have been sold, Rs 10,767 crore of the monetary instruments were encashed. The remaining amount – Rs 23.68 lakh – went to Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
The highest amount of over Rs 6,748 crore (62.68% of the total amount) was encashed in Delhi, followed by more than Rs 1,384 crore (12.85%) in Hyderabad and 1,012 crore (9.41%) in Kolkata, the RTI reply showed.
Of the total number of electoral bonds sold, 10,108 were valued at Rs 1 crore or above. The highest number (2,643) of electoral bonds with a denomination of more than Rs 1 crore were sold in Mumbai, followed by Kolkata (2,152) and Hyderabad (1,815).
The electoral bonds of denomination of Rs 1 crore and above made up 51.78% of the total 19,520 monetary instruments sold.
Pointing out that electoral bonds having denomination of Rs 1 crore and above constitute 93.67% of the total donations made under the scheme, Batra claimed that it showed that big corporates are buying the monetary instruments for political parties.
“The big question is would they not look for returns from political parties for huge donations?” he asked.
The activist also said that the irony of the scheme is that donors do not need to pay any service charge or even cover the cost of printing the electoral bonds, and the government or in effect, the tax payers bear the cost “for enabling transactions of ‘anonymous tax-free funding’ to political parties”.