Electoral bonds worth ₹1,213 crore were sold by the SBI in January, with most of them (₹784.84 crore) being encashed in the New Delhi branch, pointing towards national parties, while the Mumbai branch sold the most (₹489.6 crore worth), according to a Right to Information reply this week.
This comes as campaigning for the Assembly elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand is in full swing, after being announced on January 8.
RTI activist Kanhaiya Kumar, whose query the SBI responded to on Monday, said the amount of bonds sold this time had been the highest before any Assembly poll since the scheme started in 2018. In fact, the reply showed that the value of bonds sold in the 19th tranche, from January 1 to 10, had been nearly double of that sold in the run-up to the last set of Assembly polls in April 2021 (₹695 crore).
While the New Delhi branch was used to encash the most bonds, electoral bonds worth ₹117.12 crore were sold there. The RTI reply showed that bonds worth ₹227 crore, ₹154 crore and ₹126 crore were sold in the Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad branches respectively.
After New Delhi, the Kolkata branch had the most electoral bonds encashed (₹224 crore) followed by Chennai (₹100 crore). States where elections are going on had smaller amounts of bonds encashed — ₹50 lakh in Chandigarh, ₹3.21 crore in Lucknow and ₹90 lakh in Goa.
The scheme, started in 2018, enables Indian citizens or companies to buy the bonds from 29 SBI branches in denominations of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore to be used as anonymous donations to political parties. Since the last set of Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry in April 2021, bonds worth ₹150 crore were sold in July 2021 and ₹614 crore in October 2021.