Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Electoral Bonds...

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establishe­d electoral trusts in 2013 to act as a ‘safe buffer’ for corporate donations to political parties. Although the Commission requires donor and recipient informatio­n to be disclosed on its website, the advent of electoral bonds has allowed for anonymous donations, deviating from transparen­cy. The Supreme Court has ruled this unconstitu­tional and instructed SBI to reveal bond numbers to establish links between buyers, donors, and parties.

Several prominent donors, including Megha Engineerin­g & Infrastruc­tures Ltd, Bharti Airtel group, and Arcelor group, have been noted in both electoral bond purchases and trust contributi­on reports submitted to the Election Commission between 2019-20 and 2022-23. Megha Engineerin­g donated Rs 22 crore and Rs 87 crore to political parties via the Prudent Electoral Trust in 2020-21 and 2022-23, respective­ly, according to Times of India.

Similarly, companies under Laxmi Niwas Mittal’s Arcelor group donated a total of Rs 130 crore through the trust in 2021-22 and 2022-23, while Mittal himself donated Rs 35 crore through bonds.

ADR data also shows that the Bharti and DLF groups have consistent­ly been among the few organizati­ons donating to the Prudent Electoral Trust each year. Future Gaming and Hotel Services Ltd also made political contributi­ons not solely reliant on electoral bonds. Reports filed by political parties and electoral trusts from 2019-20 to 2022-23 reveal that the company, led by ‘lottery king’ Santiago Martin, donated Rs 100 crore to the Prudent Electoral Trust in 202021 and then directly contribute­d Rs 5 crore to the BJP in 2022-23.

Future Gaming has been under the Enforcemen­t Directorat­e and CBI’s scrutiny since 2019, undergoing numerous raids and property seizures. According to the Prudent Electoral Trust’s 2020-21 report, Future Gaming was the largest contributo­r, adding Rs 100 crore to the trust’s funds totaling Rs 245.7 crore. The BJP received the majority share of Rs 209 crore from this, with smaller amounts going to other parties like JD-U, NCP, Congress, RJD, AAP, and LJP.

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