Electoral bonds have seen a 157% jump in sales during election season, notching Rs 3,622 crore in the March-April period. This comes up to almost double the monetary figure registered in the last 10 months.
Incidentally, bond sales were still in triple digits -- at Rs 350.36 crore -- until January this year. The figure zoomed to Rs 1,365.69 crore the very next month, followed by Rs 2,256.37 crore in April. The State Bank of India provided this information in response to a Right To Information (RTI) application filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve. However, it did not submit a break-up on the beneficiaries concerned.
Electoral bonds were introduced by the Narendra Modi government in the Finance Bill-2017 as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties. Although the move was aimed at increasing transparency in political donations, critics allege that it is skewed in favour of the BJP. A report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms stated that of the Rs 215 crore generated through this route in the 2017-18 period, the ruling party secured Rs 210 crore and the opposition Congress Rs 5 crore.
Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan has alleged several deficiencies in the scheme, and described it as a "retrograde" step that goes against the cause of free-and-transparent elections. The initiative has been challenged in the Supreme Court, which has sought a break-up of information related to corporate donors as well as the political beneficiaries.
Sales of electoral bonds had dropped to Rs 32.50 crore in July last year but zoomed to Rs 401.73 crore just two months later, in October, ahead of the state assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Mizoram and Rajasthan.
In a previous RTI disclosure made in March, the State Bank of India had reported the highest purchase of electoral bonds for 2019 from Mumbai (Rs 495.60 crore), followed by Kolkata (Rs 370.07 crore), Hyderabad (Rs 290.5 crore), Delhi (Rs 205.92 crore) and Bhubaneswar (Rs 194 crore).
(With inputs from Agencies)