Electoral bonds: Congress flags discrepancies

Jairam Ramesh points out that the data provided by SBI only begins in April 2019, but SBI sold the first tranche of bonds in March 2018. A total of Rs. 2,500 crores in bonds are missing from this data

File image of a Youth Congress protest against electoral bonds in Kolkata in February 2024
File image of a Youth Congress protest against electoral bonds in Kolkata in February 2024


Soon after the Election Commission released electoral bonds data, the Congress on Thursday, 14 March said there was a discrepancy in the numbers of entries in donor and recipient files -- 18,871 against 20,421.

It also asked why the data shared pertained to a period from April 2019 even though the scheme for anonymous political funding was introduced in 2017.

Amitabh Dubey, in charge of research and monitoring in the Congress' communication department, said the electoral bond scheme began in 2017, but the data presented began in April 2019.

"The donors file has 18,871 entries, the recipients file has 20,421 entries. Why the discrepancy @TheOfficialSBI?" he said on X.

Tagging Dubey's post, Congress MP and AICC in-charge of Andhra Pradesh Manickam Tagore said, "Ah, yes, the electoral bond scheme, where transparency meets selective amnesia. Donors file: 18,871 entries. Recipients file: 20,421 entries. Coincidence? I think not."

"@TheOfficialSBI, you've truly mastered the art of hiding in plain sight," he said.

Taking a swipe at the government, Youth Congress chief Srinivas BV said the meaning of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's slogan 'Na khaunga na khane dunga' meant that "I will threaten companies, get ED raids done, collect donations, and keep filling BJP's coffers in the name of doing business."

From steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal to billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal's Airtel, Anil Agarwal's Vedanta, ITC, Mahindra and Mahindra, and a lesser-known Future Gaming and Hotel Services were among the prominent buyers of the now-scrapped electoral bonds for making political donations.

Future Gaming, which was probed by the Enforcement Directorate in March 2022, bought electoral bonds worth over Rs 1,350 crore under two different sets of companies.

Among the known corporates, Agarwal's Vedanta Ltd bought Rs 398 crore worth of bonds, while Sunil Mittal's three companies together purchased a total of Rs 246 crore worth of bonds.

Steel magnate Lakshmi Niwas Mittal bought Rs 35 crore worth of bonds in his individual capacity. Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering, which has bagged contracts for several large infrastructure projects, bought bonds worth Rs 966 crore.

Following a Supreme Court directive, the State Bank of India, which was the authorised seller of electoral bonds, shared the data with the poll panel on 12 March.

The top court had given the Election Commission time till 5 pm on 15 March to upload the data on its website.

The EC has put the details on 'Disclosure of Electoral Bonds Submitted by SBI' in two parts -- one listing the buyers and the other listing the beneficiary parties.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the State Bank of India (SBI) said a total of 22,217 electoral bonds of varying denominations were purchased by donors between 1 April, 2019, and 15 February this year, out of which 22,030 were redeemed by political parties.

According to the data uploaded by the poll panel, the buyers of electoral bonds included Spicejet, IndiGo, Grasim Industries, Megha Engineering, Piramal Enterprises, Torrent Power, Bharti Airtel, DLF Commercial Developers, Vedanta Ltd., Apollo Tyres, Edelweiss, PVR, Keventer, Sula Wines, Welspun, Sun Pharma, Vardhman Textiles, Jindal Group, Phillips Carbon Black Limited, CEAT tyres, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, ITC, Kaypee Enterprises, Cipla, and Ultratech Cement.

The parties that redeemed electoral bonds include the BJP, Congress, AIADMK, BRS, Shiv Sena, TDP, YSR Congress, DMK, JD-S, NCP, Trinamool Congress, JDU, RJD, AAP, the Samajwadi Party, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, BJD, Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, JMM, Sikkim Democratic Front, and the Jana Sena Party.

In a landmark verdict delivered on 15 February, a five-judge Constitution bench had scrapped the Centre's electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding, calling it "unconstitutional" and ordered disclosure by the EC of donors, the amount donated by them and the recipients.

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Published: 15 Mar 2024, 9:02 AM