The income of political parties in India includes a significant portion from electoral bonds. The Electoral Bonds Scheme was introduced by the government on January 2, 2018, with the aim of bringing transparency to the contributions received by political parties. These bonds were presented as an alternative to cash donations. According to a report, the contributions received through electoral bonds are counted as from unknown sources, meaning that the details of the donors are not publicly disclosed.
The validity of the Electoral Bonds Scheme has been challenged in the Supreme Court through various petitions. A hearing on four such petitions is scheduled in the Supreme Court on August 31. The five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra will begin the hearing on the constitutional matters. The petitions have been filed by leaders of the Congress party, Jayathakur and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Given the high-profile nature of the case, let’s delve into what electoral bonds are and how much funding various parties, including the BJP and Congress, have received through them.
Claimant’s Assertion: Parties have received a total of INR 12,000 crores through electoral bonds.
According to PTI, in March, a public interest litigator claimed that political parties have received a total of INR 12,000 crores through electoral bonds so far, and a significant part of this amount has gone to a major political party.
A Brief History: ADR filed the first petition in 2017, alleging corruption and lack of transparency. In 2020, the Supreme Court refused to impose an interim stay on the Electoral Bonds Scheme and asked the Election Commission to respond to ADR’s interim application.
Prior to the hearing, Attorney General R. Venkataramani stated in the Supreme Court that citizens do not have a right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution regarding the sources of income.
Who Can Purchase Electoral Bonds?
According to the provisions of the scheme, any citizen of India or a legal entity incorporated or established in the country can purchase electoral bonds. An individual can buy electoral bonds either alone or jointly with others. However, the bond can only be purchased when the buyer’s KYC (Know Your Customer) has been verified. Electoral bonds can only be issued by the State Bank of India (SBI), the authorized bank.
Which Parties Can Receive Electoral Bonds?
To receive electoral bonds, a political party must be registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Additionally, a political party must have secured at least 1% of the vote share in the previous Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assembly election. Registered political parties can redeem electoral bonds only through the designated bank accounts. Presently, political parties are not required to disclose details of donors who have donated less than INR 20,000 through electoral bonds.
Supreme Court’s Past Actions: In 2019, the Supreme Court had also refused to stay the Electoral Bonds Scheme and made it clear that it would hear the petitions in detail. The Centre and the Election Commission had initially taken a divergent stand on political funding in the court. While the government wanted to maintain the anonymity of donors, the Election Commission was pressing for open disclosure of names for transparency.
How Much Funding Do BJP, Congress, and Others Receive Through Electoral Bonds?
In a press release, ADR analyzed the total funding received through electoral bonds by 31 recognized national and regional political parties over a six-year period spanning from 2016-17 to 2021-22. Among these 31 parties, 7 were national and 24 were regional parties.
As per the report, the BJP declared receiving more than three times the total amount of funding through electoral bonds compared to all other national parties during this six-year period. The BJP received INR 52,719 crore through electoral bonds, while all other national parties together received INR 17,839 crore.
The Congress received INR 9,522 crore in funding through electoral bonds during this period, and the Trinamool Congress received INR 7,678 crore.
In the financial year 2021-22, the BJP received INR 10,337.70 crore through electoral bonds, while the TMC received INR 5,281.43 crore. The Congress received INR 2,360.995 crore.
Notably, the CPI(M), NCP, and BSP did not receive any funding through electoral bonds during this period. Therefore, out of eight parties, only four received funding through electoral bonds, totaling INR 1,811.94 crore for the financial year 2021-22.
Total Income of Political Parties
According to ADR’s report, the total income of eight national parties during the financial year 2021-22 was INR 3,289.34 crore. In this period, the BJP’s total income was INR 1,917.12 crore, the TMC’s income was INR 545.745 crore, the Congress’s income was INR 541.275 crore, the CPI(M) earned INR 162.23 crore, the NCP’s income was INR 75.84 crore, the BSP’s income was INR 43.77 crore, the CPI’s income was INR 2.87 crore, and the NPP’s income was INR 0.472 crore.
ADR stated that the data in the report has been derived from the annual audit reports presented to the Income Tax Department and the Election Commission by national parties.