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16.01.2020
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Electoral bonds were first notified in January 2018 by the then finance minister Arun Jaitley and its first tranche had gone for sale in March the same year.

New Delhi: Of the six national parties that submitted details of their Income Tax Returns (ITR), three — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) — have declared income/donations worth Rs 1,931 crore through electoral bonds during financial year 2018-19.

Among these, the ruling BJP accounted for more than 75 per cent or nearly Rs 1,451 crore of this, an analysis of these parties’ annual audited accounts by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has shown.

While the Congress declared receiving donations worth Rs 383 crore (20 per cent) via electoral bonds, AITC declared an income of Rs 97 crore (5 per cent) through the same medium during 2018-19, in their account statements.

Other national parties, including Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Communist Party of India (CPI) declared no income from electoral bonds, whereas the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is yet to submit its income details for the year 2018-19 with the Election Commission of India (ECI).

October 31, 2019, was the last date to submit the audit report. Only BSP, CPI, and CPM complied with the deadline.

Electoral bonds were first notified in January 2018 by the then finance minister Arun Jaitley and its first tranche had gone for sale in March the same year. Since then, more than Rs 6,000 crore worth of electoral bonds have been sold by the State Bank of India (SBI).

Under the electoral bond scheme, any Indian citizen can purchase electoral bonds, which are issued by the State Bank of India (SBI), and transfer them to the account of the political party within 15 days of it being issued.

The electoral bonds are available in denominations from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 crore. While the donor has to provide KYC details to the bank to purchase the bond, the identity of the donor is kept confidential. Since being notified, political donations through electoral bonds have been a matter of frequent public debate with several experts and activists claiming that it lacked transparency.

“Electoral Bonds infringe the citizen's fundamental ‘Right to Know’ by withholding crucial information regarding electoral funding. Such opaqueness is at the cost of larger public interest and is a severe blow to the very fundamentals of transparency and accountability,” the ADR report read.

Overall, the national parties (except NCP) have declared a total income of Rs 3,698.66 crore during FY 2018-19 through various sources from across the country.

The BJP has declared the highest income of Rs 2,410 crore (65 per cent of total), while Congress has shown an income of Rs 918 crore (25 per cent) for FY 2018-19. CPI declared the least income of Rs 7.15 crore (0.19 per cent) during the FY 2018-19.

Compared with the year 2017-18, BJP witnessed an almost 135 per cent increase in its income during 2018-19. The saffron party had declared an income of Rs 1,027 crore in 2017-18.

Similarly, Congress saw its income grow by 361 per cent from Rs 199 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 918 crore in 2018-19. AITC showed the highest jump of 3,628 per cent in income from Rs 5 crore in 2017-18 to 97 crore in 2018-18.

As for expenditure, the BJP spent Rs 1,005 crore during 2018-19, almost 79 per cent or Rs 792 crore of which were spent in election/general party propaganda. Congress, on the other hand, spent nearly Rs 470 crore during the same time period, more than 65 per cent of which was election-related expenditure.

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