In response to an RTI filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve, the State Bank of India has revealed that over Rs 822 crore (Rs 8,22,25,79,000) worth of electoral bonds were sold in the month of May alone, during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The RTI revealed that the bonds were sold for nearly 20 days in May, from 6 May till the day after the votes were counted, that is, 24 May.
The Quint has published a series of articles showing why electoral bonds are dangerous in a democracy, highlighting the opacity of the scheme.
The RTI filed by Durve also gives a city-wise break down of the origins of the bonds sold in May. The maximum amount of bonds, worth over Rs 370 crore, were sold in the Kolkata Main SBI branch.
Based on Durve’s RTI replies, The Quint had earlier reported on the total amount of electoral bonds sold in January, March and April 2019. A total of over Rs 4,794 crore (Rs 47,94,68,05,000) worth of electoral bonds were sold in January, March, April and May.
Here is the break-up of bonds sold in each of the months mentioned above:
- January - Rs 350+ crore
- March - Rs 1,365+ crore
- April - Rs 2,256+ crore
- May - Rs 822+crore
Meanwhile, over Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10,56,73,42,000) worth of bonds were sold in the months of March, April, May, July, October and November in 2018.
Taking into account the bonds sold in 2019 ( January, March, April and May 2019) and 2018 (March, April, May, July, October and November 2018), the total sum goes up to over Rs 5851 crore (Rs 58,51,41,47,000).
Undoubtedly, the maximum amount of political donations were made through electoral bonds during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but no one knows who are the donors and which political party is the maximum beneficiary during this period.
In April 2019, based on a petition, the Supreme Court had also ordered all political parties, who have received donations through electoral bonds, to reveal the name of the donors to the Election Commission of India in a sealed cover by the end of May this year.
EC, Former CEC Criticised Bonds For Opacity
The electoral bonds scheme was introduced in 2018 and since then the Modi government has defended the scheme on different platforms, including the Supreme Court, by saying that it aimed at ensuring "enhanced accountability" and pushing electoral reforms "to defeat the growing menace of black money".
But the EC has sharply criticised the introduction of the electoral bonds scheme, calling it a “retrograde step” that opens up the possibility of setting up shell companies through which black money can be used for political funding.
Govt Wants to Keep Identity of Donors a Secret. But Why?
Under the electoral bonds scheme, only the State Bank of India would know the identity of the donors. The SBI, however, claims that they do not have any mechanism to track the donors and find out to which political party did they eventually donated to.
Although The Quint, in its investigative piece, has revealed that electoral bonds carry a unique hidden alphanumeric number which is visible only under the UltraViolet Ray.
The 2017-18 annual audit report, submitted by the BJP to the EC, revealed that the political party received 95 percent of the total electoral bonds sold in March 2018.
Electoral bonds worth Rs 222 crore were sold in March 2018, of which BJP received Rs 210 crores worth.
The data accessed by The Quint has also indicated that bonds of denominations of Rs 1 crore and Rs 10 lakh were sold the most. There was no demand for bonds of lower denominations, like Rs 10,000 or Rs 1 lakh.
It can safely be concluded here that maximum donations are made by corporates and not by salaried individuals or small businessmen because they wouldn’t have this kind of money to make political donations.