Source: 
The Indian Express
https://indianexpress.com/elections/electoral-bonds-worth-rs-114-5-cr-bought-in-gujarat-in-run-up-to-polls-8266561/
Author: 
Avinash Nair
Date: 
13.11.2022
City: 
Ahmedabad

But the bonds were not redeemed or encashed by a political party in Gujarat, says Association for Democratic Reforms

Electoral bonds worth Rs 114.5 crore were purchased in the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly elections, according to data that the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) shared with The Indian Express. It accounts for 33 per cent of the bonds bought in the state since January 2018, when the electoral bonds scheme was first introduced to “cleanse the system of political funding in the country”.

However, none of the bonds were being redeemed or encashed by any political party in Gujarat, said Pankti Jog, the Gujarat coordinator of ADR. “This simply means that the bonds are being cashed at a different location and that state units of political parties have not benefited from this. Electoral bonds are largely used as a tool to fund election campaigns,” she said.

In January, 132 electoral bonds worth Rs 33 crore were purchased from the Gandhinagar branch of the State Bank of India (SBI), as per the ADR data. The purchases include 110 bonds, each worth Rs 10 lakh, and 22 bonds of Rs 1 crore each. In October, an additional 86 bonds worth Rs 81.5 crore — five bonds worth Rs 1 lakh each and 81 bonds worth Rs 1 crore each, respectively — were purchased

The data shows that a total of bonds worth Rs 343 crore have been bought in the Gandhinagar SBI, the only authorised bank branch in the state for the scheme, from January 2018 to October 2022. Of the total 595 bonds bought in this period, 280 are worth Rs 10 lakh each and 315 are worth Rs 1 crore each. As per ADR data, Gandhinagar stands seventh in the country — behind MumbaiKolkataHyderabad, New DelhiChennai and Bhubaneswar— in terms of the purchase of electoral bonds.

Asked who in Gujarat purchased the electoral bonds, Jog said, “The names of purchasers are kept secret. Only the SBI manager of the authorised bank knows the identity. However, by looking at the denominations of purchase, we can vaguely say that the bonds of lesser denominations between Rs 1,000 to Rs 10 lakh are usually purchased by individuals, whereas those worth Rs 1 crore are purchased by businessmen or corporate houses.”

As per an earlier notification issued by the Union Ministry of Finance in 2018, bonds can be purchased for 10 days in January, April, July, and October. On November 8, the ministry notified an amendment to the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 to allow an additional 15 days for the sale of electoral bonds in an election year.

“But in the first week of November, the government made an amendment to extend the date during elections. While the last phase for purchasing electoral bonds this year ended on October 31, a new phase started in November between 9 and 15,” Jog said.

This is the 23rd phase of the sale of bonds. It coincided with the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections on November 12. Gujarat will vote on December 1 and 5. The municipal elections in Delhi are scheduled for December 4.

Commodore Lokesh Batra, who works with ADR, has written to the Election Commission saying that the government’s amendment “amounted to a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)”.

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