SBI issued electoral bonds worth Rs 3,622 crore in March and April: RTI

In its response to an RTI filed by Pune-based Vihar Durve, SBI disclosed that electoral bonds worth over Rs. 2,256 crore were issued in the month of April, which was up by 65.21 per cent from March month issue, at Rs. 1,365.69 crore.

Electoral bonds
An RTI response showed that the State Bank of India (SBI) issued electoral bonds to the tune of Rs. 3,622 crore in March and April this year. SBI, the biggest lender in India, is the only bank authorised to issue and encash electoral bonds. This is a 157% jump in sales during the election season.
In its response to an RTI filed by Pune-based Vihar Durve, SBI disclosed that electoral bonds worth over Rs. 2,256 crore were issued in the month of April, which was up by 65.21 per cent from March month issue, at Rs. 1,365.69 crore.
As per the filing, Mumbai saw the maximum value of electoral bonds issued in April, at Rs. 694 crore, followed by Rs. 417.31 crore in Kolkata, Rs. 408.62 crore in New Delhi and Rs. 338.07 crore in Hyderabad, among other cities.
Electoral bonds were launched on March 1 last year by the Modi government as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties.  The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India “or incorporated or established in India,” the government had said in a statement last year.
In April, the Supreme Court had issued an interim order on a plea arguing that electoral bonds are unconstitutional. However, the court decided to take up the matter only at a later date, saying the case could have a tremendous bearing on India’s electoral process. It told political parties to give the Election Commission of India details of the bonds they had received till date in a sealed cover by May 30.
The court also ordered the finance ministry to narrow the window for purchasing electoral bonds in April and May from 10 days to just five days.
In March and April of 2019, respectively, Rs. 1365.68 crore and Rs. 2256.37 crore were transferred to political parties, with no taxes levied.
Since 2017, electoral bonds have allowed donors – including subsidiaries of foreign firms – to remain anonymous, regardless of the scale of their donation.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley recently argued that electoral bonds allow citizens to support a party or candidate, using white money, and without fear of repercussions. But the trade-off for this freedom is the loss of any public oversight of who is funding elected leaders, The Wire reported.

In Jaitley’s view, donations have to be enabled as democratic freedom. But evidence suggests that these donors are not regular citizens. In a prior period, 99.8% of the value of electoral bonds were issued in denominations of Rs 10 lakh or one crore, according to the Association for Democratic Reform.
In reality, large donations usually represent lobbying, quid pro quos or a transaction within a cycle of institutionalized corruption, the report said.
Data is not yet available on who received what share of the half-billion-dollar deluge just before the election. But in a prior period, FY 2017-18, 98% of the value of all electoral bonds issued went to the ruling BJP.
BJP was the biggest beneficiary of the electoral bond scheme launched by the government in 2017-18, bagging 94.5% of the bonds worth a little over Rs. 210 crore.

As per Facebook data for India until May 11, there are 31 pages that have spent over Rs 10 lakh each for advertisements on the platform. Of the top five spenders so far, three are BJP affiliates. The Cong­ress’s page is at number three (the party is still being outspent three to one by the BJP so far). The official BJP page has spent about Rs 3.96 crore till May 11 on 2,544 ads with the Congress’s page spending about Rs 1.32 crore for 3,525 ads and still getting outspent by the biggest BJP affiliate. Along with its three affiliates, the ruling party has spent a lot more than Rs 8.38 crore in the period, Open Magazine reported.
The bonds’ sale opens in SBI branches when the Finance Ministry issues a notification of their sale for a given period and remains valid for 15 days for encashment by an eligible political party, only through an account with the authorised bank.
Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds.
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