Karnataka poll: Rs 970.50 Cr worth electoral bonds raised; Hyderabad tops with Rs 335.30 Cr

This was disclosed by the SBI in reply to an RTI query from Commodore Lokesh Batra. Out of 1470 bonds raised, 1455 bonds were encashed

By Coreena Suares  Published on  3 May 2023 12:46 PM GMT
Hyderabad tops with Rs 335.30 Cr electoral bonds ahead Karnataka polls

Hyderabad: Ahead of the Karnataka election, electoral bonds and political funding worth Rs 970.50 crore were raised. It is pertinent to note that the SBI's Hyderabad branch raised Rs 335.30 crore, which is the highest across 10 cities.

In total, 1470 bonds were raised, in the 26th phase of the electoral bonds that opened for purchase between April 03 to 12. It is significant because the exercise happened just before the Karnataka election.

Bonds were raised across Bengaluru, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Chennai, Gandhinagar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi.

Pertinently, out of the five denominations, 95.105% were sold of Rs 1 crore dominations.

This was disclosed by the SBI in reply to an RTI query from Commodore Lokesh Batra. Out of 1470 bonds raised, 1455 bonds were encashed. This amounting Rs 9,70,35,00,000.00

In reply, 25 political parties have opened their account to encash electoral bonds to date. Accounts are being opened at the branches after obtaining approval from the TD department.

Speaking to News Meter, Commodore Lokesh Batra said, "The sale of electoral bonds in the highest denomination of Rs 1 crore is a clear indication that it is not being bought by ordinary businessmen but only by big business tycoons."

"Any political donation, which is opaque, seems to be corrupt. Any citizen would like to know his/her candidate and source of money. The scheme was opposed by RBI, ECI, and Law Ministry," he added.

Commodore Batra said the scheme was prepared with the basic idea of not revealing the name of the donors. “There is no name of the buyer or the seller. It is only the Government of India that will come to know. Even the SBI is under the Government of India, and regardless of which party is in power, the government is aware of who is paying whom, and there are chances that the government may choke funding for the Opposition. This is having an impact on every citizen," he said.

What are known and unknown sources?

Political parties have multiple sources of funding. The channel's contribution includes electoral trust, electoral bonds, individual funders, and party subscriptions. The sources are further categorized as 'known' and 'unknown'.

Association for Democratic Reforms defines known sources as donations above and below Rs 20,000, whose donor details are available through contribution reports as submitted by parties to the Election Commission of India.

Unknown sources are income declared in the Annual Audit reports. However, the source of income for donations below Rs. 20,000 are not revealed. Such includes 'Donations via Electoral Bonds', 'sale of coupons', 'relief fund', 'miscellaneous income', 'voluntary contributions', and 'contribution from meetings/ morchas'.

To recall, the concept of electoral trust was introduced by the UPA government, and what followed next was electoral bonds in the NDA.

Bonds in 25 phases (Excluding 26th phase)

Ahead of the Karnataka poll, Rs 308 Cr was raised across cities. Around Rs 53.15 Cr was raised in Hyderabad. After Mumbai and Kolkata, Hyderabad ranks third in the highest amount of bonds (Funding for political parties) raised in 25 phases from March 2018- Jan 2023.

In Hyderabad alone, Rs 2083.5 Cr worth of bonds were raised in 25 phases ending Jan 2023.

BRS party and Aam Aadmi Party received the highest donations among the regional parties in 2021-22.

BRS-Rs 40.90 Cr

AAP -Rs 38.23 Cr

JDU -Rs 33. 25 Cr

SP -Rs 29. 79 Cr

YSR Congress-Rs 20. 01 Cr

This excludes the electoral bonds, Trust money received.

Who is Commodore Lokesh Batra?

Commissioned into the Indian Navy on May 22, 1967, Commodore Batra served the county for 36 years in various capacities. At the time of his retirement from service in December 2002, Commodore Batra decided that he would not take up any post-retirement job or join an NGO. Batra has been running a crusade to ensure transparency in governance since RTI came into being in 2005. His RTI activism has resulted in bringing amendments to the Hindi version of the RTI Act and exposing the irregularities in a police investigation into the 2007 Nithari killings that shook the country.

This is where political parties and activists who have been opposing the opaque electoral bonds scheme look up to the Supreme Court for its intervention.

While the electoral bond scheme was rolled out in 2018, Commodore Batra has filed more than 80 RTI requests to dig out information about the scheme. He was successful in obtaining documents that resulted in a major expose on electoral bonds in 2019.

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