The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] received a whopping 74.2% share in donations from electoral bonds among all recognised political parties in financial year 2019 - 2020 (FY20), according an analysis done by the Association for Democratic Reforms. This is the same period when the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a massive victory in the general elections held in April-May 2019.
While 18 political parties collectively received ₹3441.3236 crores as proceeds from electoral bonds, the BJP got ₹2555 crores from it.
The party had fared well in FY19 and FY18 too. In FY19, it received ₹1,450.89 crores of the ₹2,539.17 crores received by all parties through electoral bonds, and ₹210 crores of the ₹221.03 crores in FY18.
This implies that since FY18, the BJP has been the biggest sole beneficiary of the electoral bonds scheme. Says the ADR report, "Between FY 2017-18 & 2019-20, recognized political parties received a total of Rs 6,201.53 crore from electoral bonds. A whopping 67.98% or Rs 4,215.89 cr of this was received by a single party which is the ruling political party."
In contrast, the Congress got ₹317.86 crores in FY20, Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress followed with ₹100.46 crores, Telengana Rashtriya Samiti with ₹89.15 crores, and the Telugu Desam Party with ₹81.6 crores, among others.
The BJP declared its annual audit report to the Election Commission of India on August 9, where it showed an income of ₹3,623 crores in FY20, more than 50% than what it was in FY19. Recognised parties have been filing their annual audit reports for FY20 since this February.
ADR's analysis also covers the 17 phases where electoral bonds were sold. A total of 465 bonds worth ₹150.51 crores were sold in the latest phase - the 17th phase - in July 2021. However, this is far less than the numbers in 8th phase in March 2019, when 2,742 bonds were sold valued at ₹1,365.69 crores. In the 9th phase, in April 2019, 4,681 bonds were sold valued at ₹2,256.37 crores.
Both these phases of electoral bonds collection were during the peak of the Lok Sabha elections.
The rise in sales of these bonds has also translated into similar phase-wise redemption by political parties.
Note that while the BJP's (and other parties) income correlate with the high income from electoral bonds in these two phases (phase 8 and 9), the data does not pinpoint how much any party earned from each phase, as the phase-wise numbers also cover bonds sold and income to all parties.
Furthermore, across all phases, 6,812 bonds were of ₹1 crore denomination, more than any other available denomination (₹10 lakh, ₹1 lakh, ₹10,000, ₹1,000). "92.30% or ₹6,812 crore of the total value of bonds purchased were in the denomination of ₹1 crore indicating that these bonds are being purchased by corporates rather than individuals", the report says.
What are electoral bonds?
Then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the electoral bonds scheme in the budget of 2017 - 2018, and laid down its rules a little later.
They can be bought in several denominations as promissory notes from notified banks, most prominently the State Bank of India. These can be donated safely and anonymously to political parties of choice, which can be redeemed by them.
The scheme has come under immense scrutiny, in part due to its lack of transparency and its ability to be a conduit to enable foreign funding to political parties.
The current report on electoral bonds by ADR has criticised the scheme for its opacity, and has called for it to be scrapped entirely.
Read the report here.