In the run-up to the Delhi Assembly Elections , 139 electoral bonds worth ₹81.67 crore were sold by various branches of SBI, according to the response to an RTI query filed by Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd.)
In the 13th phase of bond sales, between January 13 to 22, the largest number (43) were sold by the Kolkata branch, though the majority (89) were encashed at the New Delhi branch, said the RTI response from the SBI.
Of the bonds issued, 78 were the denomination of ₹1 crore while 34 bonds worth ₹10 lakh each were issued. The remaining 27 bonds were worth ₹1 lakh each. No bonds were issued in the lower denominations of ₹1,000 and ₹10,000. All bonds sold were redeemed.
The electoral bonds scheme has been criticised by the Opposition parties as well as the civil society groups for a lack of transparency in political funding , as the donor remains anonymous. So far, ₹6,210 crore have been donated through this method since the scheme began.
It is not known which parties are the recipients of these bonds sold in January 2020. However, an analysis of the 2018-19 accounts of major political parties by election watchdog Association of Democratic Reforms has shown that the biggest beneficiary so far has been the BJP.
The ADR is the petitioner in an ongoing case on the scheme in the Supreme Court. In its November 2019 plea, it had asked for a stay. However, on January 20, the apex court declined to issue a stay , despite concerns being raised about anonymous donations and opaque funding during the Delhi polls.
“This was the apprehension we had expressed, that more unaccounted money will go to political parties for the Delhi elections, without the voter knowing who has given the money to whom. The SC did not take us seriously, and now this data showing that ₹81 crore worth of bonds were sold has validated our fears,” said ADR founder Jagdeep Chhokar. He said though the scheme was originally formulated for the Lok Sabha polls, the window for the sale of bonds had repeatedly been opened before the Assembly elections as well.
The Supreme Court has not set a date for the next hearing but had given the Election Commission of India two weeks to submit its response. In its submission last week, the ECI said it had received sealed covers from 105 political parties with details of funds received through electoral bonds till date. Apart from recognised national and State political parties, the list includes 71 registered unrecognised parties. It also includes four “unidentified address of political parties”, according to the affidavit filed by the Commission.