Appearing for the EC, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi gave the information to a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna while hearing a petition by Association for Democratic Reforms which sought transparency in anonymous donations through electoral bonds, alleging that at present they encouraged corruption and generated black money.
When petitioner’s counsel Prashant Bhushan argued that electoral bonds were designed to benefit corporate houses and industrialists who contributed handsomely yet anonymously to the ruling party to receive a quid pro quo and claimed that BJP received 95% of such donations, attorney general K K Venugopal said Bhushan was kite flying and questioned the basis of the information.
However, Dwivedi handed over to the bench a two-page note, which proved Bhushan right as far as BJP getting maximum donations was concerned as it showed that in the 2017-18 financial year, 520 bonds worth Rs 222 crore were issued by State Bank of India, of which 511 bonds worth Rs 221 crore were redeemed.
“BJP has shown a receipt of Rs 210 crore through electoral bonds (which is exactly 95% of the total amount redeemed by political parties),” the EC said. This means all other parties put together received a paltry Rs 11 crore as donation through electoral bonds as compared to Rs 210 crore by BJP during 2017-18,” Dwivedi said.
The EC, however, added, “A large portion of the funding of political parties in earlier years (90% in 2015-16 and 62% in 2016-17) was in cash donations of less than Rs 20,000. If a part of the cash donations is now received through electoral bonds, it would mean that clean, tax-paid money is being used for political funding.”
Total donations received by BJP in 2016-17 was Rs 997 crore. Of the total, the party declared Rs 529 crore before the EC which showed that it received Rs 468 crore in cash donations, each below Rs 20,000, from anonymous persons. In the same period, Congress received Rs 180 crore in donations of which Rs 138 crore was through small donations from anonymous persons.
In 2017-18, BJP received Rs 990 crore in donations of which Rs 342 crore was through small cash donations by anonymous persons and Rs 210 crore by way of electoral bonds. Congress, in the same period, received Rs 168 crore of which Rs 141.50 crore was through small donations from anonymous persons and Rs 5 crore through electoral bonds.
Arguing against any intervention of the SC at this stage in the working of electoral bonds, the AG said this was a device put in place by the government as a policy decision to curb role of black money in electoral politics. “Let the system work for some time and after elections, whosoever comes to power can review the scheme and bring in changes,” the AG said. The SC said it would give its decision on Friday on the necessity of passing any interim order.