Electoral bonds worth ₹1,213 crore sold by SBI in January

In the month of January, SBI sold electoral bonds worth ₹1,213 crore. Most of the bonds (i.e., Rs. 784.84 crore) were encashed in the New Delhi branch, followed by Mumbai branch which sold bonds worth Rs. 489.6 crore, according to a Right to Information reply.

After New Delhi and Mumbai, the Kolkata branch had the most electoral bonds encashed (₹224 crore) followed by Chennai (₹100 crore). These transactions come as campaigning for the Assembly elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand is in full swing. It is important to note that the States where elections are going on had smaller amounts of bonds encashed like, Rs. 50 lakhs in Chandigarh, Rs. 3.21 crore in Lucknow and Rs. 90 lakhs in Goa.

The said RTI was filed by activist Kanhaiya Kumar. According to RBI the amount of bonds sold this time is the highest before any Assembly poll since the scheme started in 2018.

In the run-up to state elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh, political parties received funds worth Rs 614 crore from donors through electoral bonds in October, according to data from State Bank of India (SBI).

The electoral bond scheme was started in 2018. It enables Indian citizens or companies to buy the bonds from 29 SBI branches in denominations of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore to be used as anonymous donations to political parties. It is an interest-free bearer instrument for making a donation to a political party that has secured at least one percent of the vote polled in the last Lok Sabha or state election. Once the donation is made, political parties have 15 days to redeem the bond. While bond buyers have to submit Know Your Customer (KYC) details, a verification procedure carried out by banks, the bearer instruments do not have any ownership information.

The point of contention with regards to electoral bonds is that political parties do not have to disclose the identities of the donors in their annual Contribution Report submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI). This clause of bonds is being contested in the Supreme Court currently.

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