With over Rs.4,200 crores, BJP is the richest party. Are Electoral Bonds sanctified scam ?
In addition to Rs.4,200 crores in Electoral Bonds, BJP declared it has assets worth Rs.4,847.78 crores making it the richest party in India by far.
Even since Electoral Bond Scheme was introduced in 2018, it had been a subject of fierce debate with intense pushback from the opposition parties. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and many others had filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme citing that the Electoral bonds infringe the citizen’s fundamental ‘Right to Know’. With the Finance Act 2017 which introduced Electoral Bonds, the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934 and the Representation of the People Act 1951 were amended to facilitate the issue of electoral bonds.
More importantly, the section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 requires the treasurer/authorized person of a political party to maintain records of donations received which are more than Rs.20,000 from any person or a company. However, a sub-clause is added to the section 29C which states that this requirement shall apply to the contributions received by way of an electoral bond.
Link to the PDF of Finance Act 2017
This enables anonymous donations to political parties, which in turn creates a more problems than the one it chooses to solve. The Union Government had said in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that the Electoral Bonds would promote transparency in funding and donation received by the political parties. The Election Commission of India (ECI) had responded in the Supreme Court that electoral bonds wreck transparency in political funding, which in stark contrast to the Union Government’s claims.
According to an article from the Hindu, ECI said these amendments would pump in black money for political funding through shell companies and allow “unchecked foreign funding of political parties in India which could lead to Indian politics being influenced by foreign companies.”
In response to a recent Right to Information (RTI) query, State Bank of India, the only bank authorized to issue Electoral Bonds, responded on October 29th, 2022, that 10,000 Electoral Bonds were printed, each with a denomination of Rs.1 crore each. In a reply for an RTI query that was given by SBI on 1st August, electoral bonds were printed only in 2018 and 2019. With these two RTI replies from 1st August and 29th October, it is understandable that these bonds were printed sometime in between.
In addition to the Rs.1 crore denomination, there are other denominations such as Rs.1000; Rs.10,000; Rs.1,00,000; and Rs.10,00,000. But the Rs.1 crore denomination has been the most popular choice for individual and corporate donors. These bonds can be received by parties which are registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 and secured at least 1% of the votes in tha last general election to the House of the People or in State Legislative Assembly elections. However, ADR alleges that there is no list of political parties eligible to receive donations through electoral bonds in the public domain or on the ECI website. In a reply to ADR, ECI had confirmed that it has not compiled any such list.
In the financial year 2018-19, Rs.2,539.17 crores were received by all parties combined, through electoral bonds. Out of which, Rs.1,450.89 crores were received by the BJP which is 57.14%. Congress had received Rs.383.2 crores (15%) and TMC received Rs.97.28 crores in the same period.
In the financial year 2019-20, Rs.3,441.32 crores were received by all parties combined, through electoral bonds. Out of which, Rs.2,555 crores were received by the BJP which amounts to a staggering 74% of the total funds collected through electoral bonds. Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), DMK, AIADMK received Rs.317.86 crores, Rs.100.46 crores, Rs.17.76 crores, Rs.45.5 crores, Rs.6.05 crores respectively.
In the financial year 2020-21, Rs.325.06 crores were received by all parties combined, through electoral bonds. BJP, Congress, TMC, DMK received Rs.22.38 crores, Rs.10.07 crores, Rs.5.95 crores and Rs.80 crores respectively.
We have compiled the following list for the financial years 2018 to 2021 containing various parties and the funds received by them through electoral bonds.
Though it looks like BJP had received less funds through electoral bonds in the financial year 2020-21, it had collected Rs.4,238 crores from the implementation of the electoral bonds scheme in 2017. This is a whopping 65% of the total funds collected by all parties through electoral bonds.
Anonymous funding through Electoral Bonds provides an avenue for individuals and corporates to lobby the ruling party Government and induce them to act in their favor, which would be oblivious to the general public and the electorate. The parties too would be incentivized to act in favor of their donors (individual & corporates) and also not act in detriment to their donors with no such knowledge to the general public.
In addition to this, ADR alleges that the electoral bonds carry unique alphanumeric characters hidden in the top right corner which would be invisible to the naked eye but can be seen under an ultraviolet light and using this, the ruling Government can access the donor details by demanding the SBI.
In addition to opposing electoral bonds, ECI is asking for the threshold of anonymous donations to political parties be reduced from Rs.20,000 to Rs.2,000. There has to be stringent measure taken to ensure that political parties’ all donations are accounted for and there should not be any anonymity in the donations by either individuals or political parties beyond Rs.2,000. Any banking transaction above Rs.50,000 would warrant a mandatory provision of PAN Card by the parties involved. Similarly, there should be mandatory provision of Aadhar or PAN or both in case of donations to political parties beyond a certain limit, be it Rs.2,000 or Rs.20,000.
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized National Parties), 2020-2021 (updated)
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized State Parties), 2020-2021 (updated)
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized National Parties),2019-2020 (updated)
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized State Parties),2019-2020 (updated)
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized National Parties),2018-2019 (updated)
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized State Parties),2018-2019 (updated)
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized National Parties),2017-2018 (updated)
Status of filing of Annual Audit Report by Political Parties (Recognized State Parties),2017-2018 (updated)
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Introduction of the Scheme of Electoral Bond – Government Press Release Jan 2018
Electoral bonds retrograde step, against transparency of political funding: EC To SC
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