Weeks ahead of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls, the Centre on November 7, 2022 amended the Electoral Bond Scheme to grant itself the power to spell out an extra fortnight of electoral bond sales in years when States and Union Territories with a legislature have polls, and used the power to open a fresh one-week window for issuing such bonds starting November 9.
The Electoral Bond Scheme was introduced in 2018 as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties, and the government had notified a ten-day window in October this year for what was the 22nd tranche of such bonds issued and encashed solely by the State Bank of India (SBI).
The Finance Ministry on November 7, 2022 notified changes to the Scheme to introduce a new para that stated: “An additional period of fifteen days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of general elections to the Legislative Assembly of States and Union territories with Legislature.”
In an evening statement, the ministry said that the SBI has been authorised “in the XXIII Phase of sale” to issue and encash Electoral Bonds through its authorised branches.
“The Electoral Bonds shall be valid for fifteen calendar days from the date of issue and no payment shall be made to any payee Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after expiry of the validity period. The Electoral Bond deposited by an eligible Political Party in its account shall be credited on the same day,” the ministry said.
Only those political parties that are registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which secured not less than 1% of votes polled in the last General Election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, are eligible to receive Electoral Bonds.
While introducing the Electoral Bond scheme in January 2018 as a means ‘to cleanse the system of political funding in the country’, the Finance Ministry had said that these bonds shall be available for a period of 10 days each in January, April, July and October, as may be specified by the central government. “An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of the General election to the House of People,” it had said at the time.