Ahead of the Assembly elections, the strapped-for-funds Janata Dal (Secular) has received some respite in the form of electoral bonds worth ₹6 crore.

The first tranche of the first-ever electoral bonds was issued through select State Bank of India branches across the country between March 1 and 10. “At a time when we were struggling to raise money, we received ₹6 crore worth of electoral bonds,” JD(S) chief and former Prime Minister and H.D. Deve Gowda told The Hindu recently.

While the JD(S) split from the erstwhile Janata Dal in 1999, the party was part of a coalition government with the Congress first and then the BJP between 2004 and 2007. It has since never been in a position of power.

According to Mr. Gowda, the party requires between ₹30 crore and ₹40 crore to fund the elections. “Someone handed over the bonds to me. I have given authority to (former Chief Minister and party State president) H.D. Kumaraswamy to sign and utilise the money for election expenses,” said Mr. Gowda without identifying the donor.

Incidentally, in an analysis conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which was released recently, the JD(S) and YSR Congress were the only two political parties among the 20 assessed to have declared negative amount in their capital or reserve funds between 2011-2012 and 2015-2016. The analysis revealed that the JD(S) spent ₹16.24 crore during the period without any income.

According to the ADR survey, the party’s borrowing from banks, overdraft and sundry creditors was ₹2.04 crore in 2011-2012. The cumulative amount went up to ₹18.73 crore by 2015-2016. The highest borrowing — ₹7.04 crore — was in 2015-2016.

“I do not go to anybody [seeking funds]. In the past, I have taken loans, including from private financiers, to protect the party,” said Mr. Gowda, who has previously spoken about the problem of fundraising for the party in the public.

What is an electoral bond?

Electoral bonds aim to account for the money donated to political parties and are expected to clean the system of political funding. It was mooted in the 2017-2018 Union Budget, and the first window opened between March 1 and March 10. Political parties that garnered at least 1% of votes in the recent Parliamentary or Assembly elections will be able to receive donations through bonds. The bonds are like promissory notes and the parties have to encash them through their Election Commission-verified bank account within 15 days. However, the EC has expressed concern about excluding electoral bonds from being reported as it could impact transparency in political financing.

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