60% of BJP’s income through donations came from poll bonds

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Rs 1,450 crore of BJP's donation came through electoral bonds. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

More than half the funds raised by the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha elections in 2019 came through electoral bonds, according to the annual audited accounts of the party with the Election Commission.

The BJP raised a total of Rs 2,354 crore through donations in the financial year 2018-19, which was more than double the income (Rs 1,027 crore) in 2017-18. Of this, almost 60 per cent, that is Rs 1,450 crore, came through electoral bonds.

This revelation is significant as the government continues to press ahead with the sale of electoral bonds despite criticism from the Opposition, activists and the EC. The sale of the thirteenth tranche of electoral bonds was announced this week and will take place from January 13 to January 22 through 29 branches of SBI.

The SBI has sold electoral bonds worth Rs 6,128 crore since their introduction in March 2018, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms. The ruling party has been the biggest beneficiary of this donation instrument. Opposition parties have criticised electoral bonds for the opacity they have introduced into electoral funding. A petition challenging the scheme is pending with the Supreme Court and will be heard later this month.

Announced in the 2017 Union Budget, electoral bonds are interest-free bearer bonds used to donate money anonymously to political parties. The bonds are issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore, and SBI is the only bank authorised to sell them. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice, which can then be cashed by the party through its verified account within 15 days.

The Congress’ income from electoral bonds pales in comparison to BJP’s. It has received Rs 383 crore through this donation instrument, accounting for 41per cent of its total income (from donations) of Rs 918 crore.