Political parties have encashed electoral bonds worth Rs 1,045.53 crore till date, Union Minister of State for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan told Parliament on Tuesday. In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, the minister said bonds worth Rs 1,056.73 crore were purchased by the end of the sixth phase of sale in November.
Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from the State Bank of India and give to a political party, which is then free to redeem them for money. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced this scheme in his Budget speech in 2017, claiming the government wanted to clean up political funding and make it a transparent process. The bank started selling the bonds from this March.
The entire process is anonymous since no one is required to declare their purchase of these bonds and political parties do not need to declare the source of the money. The money is unlikely to be “black” since it has to be given by cheque, the government has reasoned.
However, former Chief Election Commmissioner OP Rawat has said the authorities cannot be sure that black money is not being used to purchase these bonds. He also told a newspaper that the government has not addressed the poll panel’s concerns about the scheme.
In August, a report by data journalism website Factly revealed that not a single electoral bond in the denomination of Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 was purchased when the State Bank of India opened the scheme’s fourth cycle between July 2 and July 11. Of the bonds purchased, 99.7% were in the denomination of Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore. This, the website said, was a possible indication that corporate groups were purchasing these monetary instruments.