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SC’s electoral bonds scheme verdict: How ruling party stands to lose the most?

Raghvendra Dubey ‘ Bhau’

In a big setback for the ruling party,  the Supreme Court struck down the electoral bonds scheme months ahead of general elections 2024, saying it violates the right to information and the freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution. The electoral bond scheme, notified by the government on January 2, 2018, was pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties. Since the electoral bond scheme was launched in 2018, 674,250 electoral bonds worth ₹28,531.5 crore have been printed by the India Security Press, Nashik, between 2019 and 2022. Since then, anonymous donors have contributed nearly ₹16,000 crore to political parties in India through electoral bonds, a lion’s share is estimated to have gone to BJP.


Analysing the period between 2018 and March 2022, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental organisation, found that 57 per cent of these donations were directed towards the BJP. With India preparing for Lok Sabha elections between March and May, these funds have enabled the BJP to emerge as a dominant electoral force. All political parties put together received over ₹12,000 crore till last fiscal since the introduction of the now-annulled electoral bond scheme in 2018, of which the ruling BJP got nearly 55 per cent or ₹6,565 crore, according to the data available with the Election Commission and ADR.


While the party-wise data for the current fiscal 2023-24 would be available later after they file annual audit reports for the year, the ADR put the collective amount of funds generated through the sale of electoral bonds between March 2018 and January 2024 at ₹16,518.11 crore.
On average, electoral bonds are estimated to constitute more than half of the total contributions received by political parties, with some regional parties in power in their respective states relying on them for over 90 per cent of their funding.


For the BJP, electoral bonds represent over half of its total income. The BJP surpassed the Congress as the richest political party in India since the final year of UPA-II. In the fiscal year 2013-14, the BJP’s total income was ₹673.8 crore, compared to the Congress’s ₹598 crore.
Since then, the BJP’s income has increased, while the Congress has seen a decline in its fortunes, except for intermittent years. In the fiscal year 2018-19, the first full fiscal year after the introduction of electoral bonds, the BJP’s income over doubled to ₹2,410 crore (from ₹1,027 crore), while the Congress’s income also rose significantly from ₹199 crore to ₹918 crore.


In the last fiscal year 2022-23, the BJP’s total income was ₹2,360 crore, of which nearly ₹1,300 crore came from electoral bonds. During the same period, the Congress’s total income decreased to ₹452 crore, with ₹171 crore coming from electoral bonds. The BJP’s electoral bond funding increased from ₹1,033 crore in 2021-22, while the Congress’s funding decreased from ₹236 crore in the same year.


Among other parties, the Trinamool Congress received ₹325 crore through electoral bonds in the last fiscal year, while it was ₹529 crore for the BSP, ₹185 crore for the DMK, ₹152 crore for the Biju Janata Dal, and ₹34 crore for the Telugu Desam Party. The Samajwadi Party saw its electoral bond contributions fall to zero, while the Shiromani Akali Dal also received no contributions.


How much donation did each political party receive through electoral bonds?


Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)


According to the annual audited report submitted to the Election Commission, the ruling BJP got nearly ₹1,300 crore through electoral bonds in the financial year 2022-23.The total contributions in the financial year 2022-23 stood at ₹ ₹2120 crore in the 2022-23 fiscal, out of which 61 per cent came from electoral bonds. The BJP’s total contributions in fiscal 2021-22 were ₹1,775 crore. The saffron party’s total income in 2022-23 stood at ₹2360.8 crore, up from ₹1917 crore in FY 2021-22. The ruling party also earned ₹237 crore from interests in the last financial year, more than the ₹135 crore earned in 2021-22. According to the data submitted to the poll panel, BJP spent ₹78.2 crore for use of aircraft and helicopters, which is down from ₹117.4 crore in 2021-22. It paid ₹76.5 crore as financial assistance to candidates, down from ₹146.4 crore in 2021-22. The party has shown this assistance under the head ‘total payments’.


Congress
The Congress earned ₹171 crore from electoral bonds, down from ₹236 crore received in 2021-22.


Samajwadi Party
Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Partye arned ₹3.2 crore through electoral bonds in 2021-22. In 2022-23, the recognised state party received no contributions from these bonds.


Telugu Desam Party
The TDP, also a recognised state party, earned ₹34 crore through electoral bonds in 2022-23, 10 times more than the amount received in the previous fiscal.

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