(This article was originally published by The Economic Times on 29/11/2018.)
NEW DELHI: BJP was the biggest beneficiary of the electoral bond scheme launched by the government in 2017-18, bagging 94.5% of the bonds worth a little over Rs 210 crore.
The BJP’s audit and income tax reports submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI) list voluntary contribution of “Rs 210,00,02,000 through electoral bonds”, ET’s review of the party’s annual audit report for 2017-18 shows.
Electoral bonds worth a total of Rs 222 crore were issued in the maiden tranche of the scheme in March this year.
As in the previous year, the BJP breached the Rs 1,000 crore mark, as it raised Rs 1,027 crore in 2017-18 and spent Rs 758 crore. The report says that the party spent more than Rs 567 crore on ‘election/general propaganda’, Rs 22 crore on employee costs and Rs 143 crore on administrative costs.
The 2017-18 report captures funding and expenditure details only till March 31 and hence covers only the first cycle of the electoral bond scheme that was open from March 1-10.
While the government had informed the Lok Sabha in March that electoral bonds worth Rs 222 crore had been purchased in the maiden tranche, information recently obtained by Factly from the State Bank of India under the Right to Information indicates that bonds worth over Rs 600 crore were sold between March 31 and October this year, something that will reflect only in the 2018-19 audit reports of political parties.
In keeping with the anonymity offered to donors under the electoral bond scheme, the identity of the donor/s to the BJP is not known. The contribution accounts for 20.4% of the total funds raised by the party during the year. Moreover, the ultimate benefits accrued to political parties via electoral bonds will be much higher.
In all, the BJP raised about Rs 487 crore or 52.8% of the funds in 2017-18 through anonymous sources. Besides, the party has declared Rs 437 crore in its contribution report, detailing names of donors, as per transparency guidelines of the ECI.
The Congress is yet to submit its annual audit report despite two reminders. However, the BJP’s report indicates that the Congress could not have received more than Rs 12 crore via electoral bonds.
Trinamool Congress and NCP have not declared any income by way of electoral bonds in their annual audit reports, which were also reviewed by ET.
Some political parties have severely criticised the electoral bond scheme saying it lacks transparency, although the government has defended it saying it at least ensures funding through clean banking channels and hence checks black money and anonymous cash flow. Nonetheless, the CPM filed a petition in the SC against the scheme.
The ECI, too, objected to certain aspects of the scheme. In a recent interview to ET, chief election commissioner OP Rawat said none of the commission’s concerns over foreign money and black money finding a way around the scheme had been addressed.
After electoral bonds, the biggest source of donations for the BJP was the Prudent Electoral Trust, which gave it Rs 144 crore from its Rs 169 crore kitty. The party raised a total of Rs 167 crore from electoral trusts in 2017-18.
On the other hand, the Congress saw a 62% decline to Rs 225.36 crore in 2016-17 from Rs 598.06 crore in the previous year.