The State Bank of India sold electoral bonds worth Rs 1,213 crore in January, out of which bonds worth Rs 784.84 were encashed in the New Delhi branch, The Hindu reported on Wednesday.

The SBI gave this information in response to a Right to Information query filed by activist Kanhaiya Kumar.

The bank stated that its Mumbai branch sold the most bonds, worth Rs 489.6 crore. The New Delhi branch sold bonds worth Rs 117.12 crore, while the Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad branches sold bonds worth Rs 227 crore, Rs 154 crore and Rs 126 crore respectively.

Kumar said that the value of the bonds sold this time was the highest ever in the run-up to Assembly elections since the beginning of the Electoral Bond Scheme in 2018.

Electoral bonds were sold between January 1 and 10 as part of the 19th tranche of the scheme. The amount of Rs 1,213 crore was nearly double that sold before the last Assembly elections in April 2021 (Rs 695 crore), according to The Hindu.

Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from a bank and give to a political party, which is then free to redeem them for money. Former Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced this scheme in his Budget speech in 2017, claiming the government wanted to clean up political funding and make it a transparent process.

However, the entire process is anonymous since no one is required to declare their purchase of these bonds and political parties do not need to declare the source of the money. The money is unlikely to be “black” since it has to be given by cheque, the government had reasoned.

In August, a report by non-governmental organisation Association for Democratic Reforms had found that electoral bonds worth Rs 3,429.56 crore were redeemed by political parties in financial year 2019-’20. It found that 87.29% of this was received by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.

The BJP’s income from electoral bonds formed 76.15% of the total of the seven national parties.

Two petitions challenging the Electoral Bond scheme have been pending in the Supreme Court since August 2017.

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