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Business News/ News / Electoral bonds: Just 7 Sensex cos in the list, Coimbatore-based firm is top donor
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Electoral bonds: Just 7 Sensex cos in the list, Coimbatore-based firm is top donor

Electoral bonds had been a key funding instrument for political parties in recent years, but the anonymity of the donations faced legal challenges, culminating in the Supreme Court's decision last month to quash the scheme

The Supreme Court had ordered the State Bank of India, the sole issuer of these bonds, to disclose details of all issued bonds to the election commission. (Photo: Reuters)Premium
The Supreme Court had ordered the State Bank of India, the sole issuer of these bonds, to disclose details of all issued bonds to the election commission. (Photo: Reuters)

Just 23 companies accounted for half the total value of electoral bonds purchased since April 2019, with Coimbatore-headquartered lottery services firm Future Gaming and Hotel Services Pvt Ltd emerging as the top buyer, according to a Mint analysis of the data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday.

Until the Supreme Court quashed the scheme last month, purchasing an electoral bond effectively meant making a political donation that could later be encashed by a political party.

The list detailed bonds worth 12,155.51 crore purchased by over 1,300 companies in nearly five years. Future Gaming and Hotel Services alone bought 1,368 crore worth of bonds, the only company to surpass the 1,000-crore mark. Another 21 companies bought bonds worth between 100 and 1,000 crore each.

Vedanta Ltd was the fourth-largest buyer of electoral bonds, purchasing 401 crore worth. Other major listed companies that appeared among the top buyers included Bharti Airtel ( 198 crore), Jindal Steel and Power Ltd ( 123 crore), Dr. Reddy’s Lab ( 84 crore), and NCC Ltd ( 60 crore).

It must be noted that a company could buy bonds through its subsidiaries as well, but in this analysis, all arms are treated separately. The size of bond purchases by several companies might go up if the purchases by their subsidiaries are also added against their names.

Only seven out of the 30 Sensex companies featured in the list: Bharti Airtel, UltraTech Cement ( 35 crore), Mahindra & Mahindra ( 25 crore), Bajaj Finance ( 20 crore), Maruti Suzuki ( 20 crore), ITC ( 6.6 crore), and Tech Mahindra ( 1 crore).

Identifying which political parties encashed these bonds was not immediately possible, as there is no straightforward method to link each bond purchase with its encashment by political parties. Data on purchases and encashments was released separately, without any unique identifier common to both sets of data.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) encashed the highest value of bonds—close to half the total (47%, or 6,060 crore). This was followed by the All India Trinamool Congress, whose value of encashment stands at 1,609 crore, or a share of 13%, and Congress ( 1,421 crore, 11%).

Regional parties such as Bharat Rashtra Samithi, Biju Janata Dal, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also figure in the top five. The list of encashments by political parties gave details of bonds worth 12,769 crore.

The SBI had earlier said it had issued bonds worth 16,518 crore in 30 tranches between April 2019 and 15 February 2024. The list of bond purchases has entries until 11 January 2024, while the list of bond encashments has entries until 24 January 2024—likely the reason why the totals do not match with the one given by the SBI. In its press release on Thursday, the election commission did not indicate whether it plans to release anything further.

Electoral bonds had been a key funding instrument for political parties in recent years, but the anonymity of the donations faced legal challenges, culminating in the Supreme Court's decision last month to quash the scheme. The court ordered the State Bank of India, the sole issuer of these bonds, to disclose details of all issued bonds to the election commission. The poll panel made the details public two days after receiving them from the State Bank of India.

The exact number of distinct companies on the list was unclear due to minor spelling variations in several names. Nonetheless, Mint managed to ascertain the exact bond purchases of at least the top 40 companies.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanay Sukumar
Tanay leads Mint's data journalism team. His role involves editing and overseeing the newspaper's diverse data offerings, ranging from deep analytical pieces (in the daily "Plain Facts" section) to bite-sized social media charts.
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Published: 14 Mar 2024, 10:18 PM IST
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