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Rs 9.5 Cr of Taxpayer Money Spent on Commission, Printing of Electoral Bonds

Ahead of SC hearing on Dec 6, an RTI application shows that Rs 10,791.50 crore has been collected by political parties through EBs in 22 phases since 2018.
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The Centre has spent around Rs 9.5 crore of taxpayer money on commission and printing costs of opaque electoral bonds (EBs) issued to fund political parties.

A right-to-information (RTI) application filed by transparency activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd.) has revealed that almost Rs 10,791.50 crore has been collected by political parties through EBs from anonymous donors in 22 phases since the Electoral Bond Scheme was launched in 2018.

According to the reply of the department of economic affairs, Ministry of Finance, 93.67% of the EBs are of Rs 1 crore denomination each—leaving no doubt that big corporate entities are purchasing them to donate to political parties.

The Rs 9.5 crore comprises a commission of Rs 7.63 crore and Rs 1.90 crore (both inclusive of Goods and Services Tax) as charges for the printing of EBs, the RTI reply says.

Ironically, donors who buy EBs are not required to pay any service charge (commission) to the State Bank of India (SBI)—the only bank authorised to issue EBs—and even the printing cost of EBs. Ultimately, the taxpayer has to bear this cost.

The Supreme Court is slated to hear all petitions, including by Association of Democratic Reforms, CPI(M) and the Congress, challenging the government’s electoral bond scheme on December 6.

An earlier RTI filed by Batra showed that a whopping Rs 545 crore was received by political parties through the 22nd sale of EBs between October 1 and 10 ahead of the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly elections. During the previous sale of EBs in July, political parties received Rs 389.50 crore.

Out of Rs 10,791 crore, bonds worth Rs 10,767.88 crore were encashed with the remaining Rs 23.59 crore transferred to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.

In 2019-20, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received more than 75% of the bonds, according to the Election Commission data. A total of 738 EBs worth Rs 542.25 crore were redeemed by parties in the latest phase, the SBI had said in its reply to the RTI.

EBs worth Rs 117 crore were purchased from the SBI’s Hyderabad main branch and Rs 115 crore from the Chennai branch. The query revealed that as much as 96% of the EBs sold were of the face value of Rs 1 crore each.

Delhi (Rs 285.15 crore) topped the list when it came to encashing the bonds, followed by Kolkata (Rs 143.10 crore) and Hyderabad (Rs 67 crore). Bonds were also encashed from SBI branches in Gangtok (Rs 2 crore), Chennai (Rs 10 crore) and Bhubaneswar (Rs 35 crore), the reply revealed.

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