Electoral bonds: DMK, AIADMK, JD(S) disclose pre-2019 donors

Previously, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had voluntarily disclosed a Rs 1 crore donation from Hindalco Industries

A sample electoral bond (photo: National Herald archives)
A sample electoral bond (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

In a significant revelation, several major political parties, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Janata Dal Secular (JDS), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), Janata Dal United (JDU), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Samajwadi Party, Sikkim Democratic Front, and Maharashtra Gomantak Party have divulged the names of donors who contributed via electoral bonds between March 2018 and April 2019.

According to a report in the Indian Express, this disclosure, though not unprecedented, marks a significant step in transparency within Indian politics.

Previously, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had voluntarily disclosed a Rs 1 crore donation from Hindalco Industries through an electoral bond in 2019-20. However, the recent revelation by the Election Commission of India (ECI) is the most extensive disclosure to date regarding which donor contributed to which party.

The story so far

The disclosed information sheds light on significant contributions made to various parties. For instance:

· Future Gaming and Hotel Services Pvt Ltd, headed by Santiago Martin, allocated nearly 40 per cent of its total purchases, exceeding Rs 1,300 crore, from 2019 to 2024 to the DMK.

· Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL), the second-largest purchaser of bonds, donated Rs 50 crore to JDS in Karnataka.

· Infosys, led by Narayana Murthy, donated Rs 1 crore to JDS two months before the 2018 Karnataka elections.

· JKNC received Rs 50 lakh from Bharti Airtel, promoted by Sunil Mittal, in 2019.

· The Bajaj Group became the biggest donor to the AAP via electoral bonds with a donation of Rs 3 crore before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

· Bharti Airtel Ltd and Serum Institute's Cyrus Poonawala donated to NCP during 2018-19.

Interestingly, some major parties, including the BJP, Congress, and Trinamool Congress, among others, have refrained from disclosing any information about their donors. The BJP, in particular, stated to the ECI that it is not obligated by law to maintain records of electoral bond donors, while the Congress indicated that it has requested the State Bank of India (SBI) to share donor identities directly with the ECI.

Implications and response

Legal expert Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in the Supreme Court, pointed out that the recent disclosure strengthens the argument for the SBI to share the unique alphanumeric code for each bond purchased and redeemed.

In response to inquiries, Bhushan asserted, "It's evident now that parties know the identity of donors. The fact that some parties haven't revealed the details only strengthens our argument that the State Bank of India must disclose the electoral bond numbers, enabling the public to match the donor with the political party." 

Background and context

The recent disclosure follows a Supreme Court decision that struck down the electoral bonds scheme introduced by the first Narendra Modi government in 2018. The scheme, allowing individuals and companies to make anonymous donations to political parties, faced legal challenges from the very beginning owing to concerns about transparency.

With the cumulative data from the recent disclosure, the BJP leads in funds received through electoral bonds, followed by the Congress and Trinamool, among others.

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