Business Standard

Despite today’s electoral bond data, questions may remain over ~4K cr gap

Significan­t amount raised before April 2019, shows ADR data


Informatio­n about over a quarter of electoral bonds said to have been issued since 2018 will not be in the public domain despite additional disclosure­s due on March 21. The Election Commission of India (ECI) is set to release informatio­n on serial numbers enabling matching of donors with the parties to which they donated money.

It has released informatio­n on data from April 2019 to February 2024.

The additional disclosure­s relate to bonds of the same vintage. The Associatio­n for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had earlier sourced additional data from applicatio­ns filed under the Right to Informatio­n (RTI) Act.

In January this year, ADR released a report, according to which, the State Bank of India issued electoral bonds worth over ~16,000 crore, and a similar amount was redeemed in 30 phases since the inception of the scheme in 2018.

A total of ~16,492 crore was redeemed by political parties, and the remaining ~26 crore funds were transferre­d to the Prime

Minister Relief Fund.

The ECI data covers 20,421 bonds worth ~12,769 crore. The

ADR data, however, collated informatio­n on 27,811 bonds worth ~16,492 crore. The gap is nearly ~4,000 crore and involves over 7,000 bonds. This also manifests in the declared data of key political parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party, for example, has bonds worth over ~500 crore, which are not part of the ECI disclosure­s because earlier data is excluded.

Other parties show similar gaps, though some have larger amounts in the ECI disclosure­s because they cover a period in which they received more donations. Data for the first eight phases is missing in the ECI data..

The top ten donors accounted for over a third of the total donations, valued at ~4,564 crore.

The top donor was Future Gaming and Hotel Services, which bought total electoral bonds worth ~1,368 crore, followed by Megha Engineerin­g and Infrastruc­ture Limited, which donated ~966 crore. In February, the Supreme Court had ruled the electoral bond scheme was invalid. It removed earlier limits imposed on corporate donations to political parties. The apex court subsequent­ly ordered the full disclosure of electoral bond data, though only from 2019.

The data is being released in phases, with the latest details due on Thursday.

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