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Electoral Bonds Data Out With Numbers, Donors Can Be Matched With Parties

New Delhi: The latest revelation regarding Electoral Bonds unveils a crucial aspect—the inclusion of unique identifiers enabling the tracing of donors to their respective political beneficiaries. Following a Supreme Court directive, the Election Commission has made public lists provided by the State Bank of India today.

Earlier, the bank had furnished two lists to the Commission, which were subsequently disclosed on the poll panel’s website on March 14. These lists contained details regarding donors, bond purchases, dates of transactions, political parties, and the redemption of bonds.

Notably absent were the concealed alphanumeric codes on the bonds, crucial for associating donors with political entities—a factor raising concerns about the erosion of anonymity pledged by the government. These codes are visible only under ultraviolet light. Insights gleaned from previous lists have highlighted significant contributors such as Future Gaming and Hotel Services PR, Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Ltd, Qwik Supply Chain Pvt Ltd, Vedanta, and Bharti Group. Among the recipients, the BJP topped the list, trailed by Trinamool Congress, Congress, and the BRS.

Additionally, it has come to light that certain southern parties, including DMK, AIADMK, and JD(S), have furnished donor information to the Election Commission.

In a recent development, the Supreme Court, on Monday, instructed the State Bank of India—the sole issuer of electoral bonds—to divulge all pertinent details by 5 p.m. today, following concerns raised by petitioners regarding the bank’s provision of “incomplete data.”

“We expect full disclosure of all information pertaining to electoral bonds within your possession… The SBI’s approach seems to be one of ‘you instruct us what to disclose, and we’ll comply.’ This does not appear equitable. When we demand ‘all details,’ it encompasses every conceivable piece of data… Full transparency is imperative. We aim to ensure no information has been withheld,” remarked Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud.

The apex court, having invalidated the Electoral Bond Scheme on February 16, had voiced objections against undisclosed corporate donations, emphasizing voters’ right to know the financiers of political parties.

“The contributors gain access… this access influences policy decisions… due to the nexus between financial contributions and electoral outcomes. Financial backing of political parties can lead to quid pro quo arrangements,” asserted the bench led by Chief Justice Chandrachud.

Labeling the scheme as unconstitutional, the court stressed the necessity of transparency regarding political party funding to empower voters in making informed electoral decisions, as the prevailing system could result in policy alterations favoring donors.

There are concerns within the industry that the revelation of donor identities may expose companies to victimization. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi expressed this apprehension in a recent interview, stating, “If it becomes known that I’ve financially supported one party and not another, the other party may retaliate, especially if they gain power.”

There’s also the looming threat of unscrupulous elements exploiting the situation for personal gain.

The disclosure of contributions reveals significant donations from entities like ‘lottery king’ Santiago Martin’s Future Gaming and Hotel Services, which contributed ₹ 509 crore to Tamil Nadu’s ruling party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Overall, the company’s contributions amounted to ₹ 1,368 crore. Other major contributors include Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Ltd (₹ 966 crore), Qwik Supply Chain Pvt Ltd (₹ 410 crore), Vedanta Ltd (₹ 400 crore), and Haldia Energy Ltd (₹ 377 crore).

The Bharti Group stands out with a contribution of ₹ 247 crore, followed by Essel Mining & Industries Ltd (₹ 224 crore), Western UP Power Transmission Company Ltd (₹ 220 crore), Keventer Foodpark Infra Ltd (₹ 195 crore), and Madanlal Ltd (₹ 185 crore).

In terms of recipients, the BJP emerges as the largest beneficiary, receiving ₹ 6,986.5 crore in electoral bonds since their introduction in 2018. The Trinamool Congress ranks second (₹ 1,397 crore), followed by Congress (₹ 1,334 crore), BRS (₹ 1,322 crore), and Odisha’s ruling party BJD (₹ 944.5 crore). The DMK holds the sixth position in terms of bond receipts.

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