Electoral bonds turn food pipe for political funding

Representative image. (iStock Photo)

Almost two-third of Rs 3,696.62 crore donations received by seven prominent parties, including BJP, Congress and TMC, in 2018-19 were through electoral bonds, an analysis showed.

None among the seven parties — others being BJD, JD(S), TRS and YSR Congress — received less than 50% of its donations through the electoral bond route in the previous fiscal.

Activists and Opposition parties allege that electoral bonds introduced by the Modi government in 2018 is an opaque way of political funding that helped the ruling BJP.

According to the analysis, these parties received Rs 2,421 crore or 65.51% of the total donations through electoral bonds with the BJP topping the list with Rs 1,450.89 crore (61.63%). The Congress came second with Rs 383.26 crore (69.49%) of Rs 551.55 crore donations it received during the last fiscal.

“The worst fears of advocates of greater transparency in political party funding have come true. The opaque EBs mechanism where the identity of donors remains secret has become the preferred route for corporates and individuals making large-sized donations to political parties,” RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, who analysed annual reports filed by parties with the Election Commission, told DH. Nayak, who heads the Access to Information Programme in Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said that not all parties seem to have received funding through the electoral bond route.

JD(U), AAP and AIADMK, which rule Bihar, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu respectively, have not reported donations through electoral bonds in 2018-19 while prominent Opposition parties such as TDP, RJD, DMK, SAD, NCP, CPI, CPI-M, SP, and BSP too have not received contributions through this route during this period.

Among the seven parties, which got donations through electoral bonds, TRS had the highest proportion of contributions through this route at 82.20% ( Rs 141.50 crore out of Rs 182.67 crore), while YSR Congress got the least at 55.14% (Rs 99.89 crore out of Rs 181.07 crore). Of the Rs 42.88 crore donations JD(S) got 82.20% ( Rs 35.25 crore out of Rs 42.88 crore) were from electoral bonds.

The analysis also showed that only Congress, TRS, and YSR Congress declared the amount of donations received from corporates separately in their audit reports. Nayak said corporate donations, when not routed through electoral bonds have to be accounted for in the contribution and audit reports if they are above Rs 20,000.

With the emergence of electoral bonds, the analysis appeared to suggest that electoral trusts have lost their charm for receiving funding.

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