Days After Approval To Expand Project in Rajasthan, Vedanta Gave ₹ 100 Cr to BJP

Cairn Oil and Gas, Vedanta Group company, has been at the centre of allegations concerning environmental violations.

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On 27 October 2022, Cairn Oil and Gas, a unit of Vedanta Limited, secured approval from the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) to extend its licence to explore and produce oil and gas in Rajasthan until May 2030.

On 14 November 2022, within a span of 18 days, the Vedanta group had purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 110 crore. Now, fresh data released by the Election Commission of India, on 21 March, shows that out the electoral bonds of Rs 110 crore purchased by Vedanta, Rs 100 crore went to BJP while Congress got Rs 10 crore.

Cairn, India's largest oil and natural gas production company, has been embroiled in several controversies concerning environmental violations over the years. In August 2023, a report by OCCRP (Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) found that Cairn India successfully lobbied to weaken key environmental regulations.

Speaking off the record, a source from the ministry, however, clarified that any "correlation" between the extension of the license and donations via electoral bonds would be "mischievous". "MoPNG is not aware of any such donations. Various donors donate throughout the political cycle. There are at least 50+ licenses which were extended by the ministry. There have been instances when the firm has been fined by the ministry or when their contentions have not been accepted by the ministry. They have operations across sectors. So any such correlation is not true," the source said.

In total, Vedanta purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 404.4 crore between April 2019 and January 2024. While BJP received Rs 230.15 crore out of the company's total donations. The Congress received Rs 125 crore, and Odisha's Biju Janata Dal (BJD) got Rs 40 crore.
Cairn Oil and Gas, Vedanta Group company, has been at the centre of allegations concerning environmental violations.

Party-wise electoral bond donations by Vedanta. 

(Vibhushita Singh/The Quint)


Key Projects Despite Environmental Concerns

Vedanta's first donation through electoral bonds, for instance, was made on 16 April 2019 when the company purchased bonds worth Rs 39.65 crore, which went entirely to the BJP. 10 days later, on 25 April 2019, the company received environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for the expansion of its oil and gas operations in Rajasthan.

Later that year, Vedanta received forest clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for a proposed steel-manufacturing plant in Jharkhand despite encroachment allegations.

Another big purchase of electoral bonds by Vedanta came in January 2022. On 4 January 2022, the company bought bonds worth Rs 20 crore which went to the Congress while on 10 January 2022, Vedanta purchased bonds worth Rs 76 crore which were later encashed by the BJP.

Interestingly, on 3 December 2021, one month before this transaction, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change had sought an explanation from the group about alleged concealment of facts regarding an environmental litigation pending in the National Green Tribunal while applying for a proposal to expand the production capacity of an aluminium smelter in Odisha.

While there is no public record of what happened in the case after that, in an interview dated 28 February 2022, the company's CEO said that the expansion project was "going as per schedule."

Again, in May 2022, the NGT imposed a fine of Rs 25 crore on Vedanta for violating environmental norms by expanding its alumina refinery and captive power plant at Lanjigarh in Odisha’s Kalahandi district.

Two months later, on 2 July 2022, the company purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 25 crore which went to Odisha's Biju Janata Dal.

A majority (Rs 51 crore) of Vedanta's Rs 125 crore donations made to the Congress party came in 2022. It donated Rs 21 crore to Congress in January 2022, Rs 20 crore in July 2022, and Rs 10 crore in November 2022. During this time, the group was facing severe protests from locals in Barmer over groundwater pollution by Cairn Oil and Gas operations.

(This story was updated to include an unofficial response from the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG). The Quint has reached out to Vedanta and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for a response. This story will be updated as and when we hear from them.)

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