Read HuffPost India’s investigation into how the Modi government brought untraceable funds into Indian politics here.
The largest number of bonds—43—were sold by the bank’s Kolkata branch between January 13 and 22, according to the report, based on a query filed by Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd). A majority of the bonds were encashed at the New Delhi branch, the RTI response stated. It is not known yet which parties received the bonds sold in January.
According to an analysis released in January by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised Rs 2,410 crore during 2018-19, of which Rs 1,450 crore came as donations through electoral bonds.
“The BJP received donations through electoral bonds worth Rs 1,450.89 crore, the Congress Rs 383.26 crore and TMC Rs 97.28 crore,” it said.
HuffPost India’s series on electoral bonds by Nitin Sethi had revealed that the SBI resorted to misinformation in its responses to RTI inquiries on the controversial electoral bonds scheme. It also revealed the government’s claim that bond donors are completely anonymous was a lie. SBI maintains a secret number-based record of donors who buy electoral bonds, and the political parties they donate to.
The Supreme Court had refused to grant an interim stay on the electoral bonds scheme on January 20 and sought a response from the centre and the Election Commission within two weeks.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) asked the Modi government last month to reveal the names of those who requested that donors who buy electoral bonds remain anonymous.
Documents reviewed by HuffPost India also revealed that when anonymous billionaires use electoral bonds, the Indian taxpayer pays the banking fees, commissions, and associated charges. Sethi also established, through the documents obtained through RTI, that the Ministry of Law and Justice signed off on the government’s decision to hastily pass the electoral bond scheme by bypassing the Rajya Sabha. The approval came even as the ministry put on record that the government’s strategy was illegal and unconstitutional.
The series also revealed how Narendra Modi’s PMO directed the finance ministry to break its own rules to approve an unscheduled and illegal sale of electoral bonds for state assembly elections on two separate occasions. These elections — Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana — were the last round of polls before the Modi government’s first tenure ended.
Sethi’s series, which was mainly based on documents accessed by transparency activist Batra, also detailed how the Modi government overruled the objections of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission.