• Saturday, April 20, 2024

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India’s electoral bonds: Lakshmi Mittal among top buyers

The prominent corporate buyers include Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Airtel, Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta, ITC, Mahindra and Mahindra, Spicejet, Grasim Industries and Torrent Power

 

File photo of Lakshmi Mittal, CEO of ArcelorMittal. AFP PHOTO/ ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shajil Kumar

Lakshmi Mittal, the UK-based executive chairman of multinational steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal, is among the prominent buyers of the recently scraped electoral bonds for making political donations in India. He bought Rs 350 million worth of bonds in his individual capacity.

The Election Commission displayed the data on electoral bonds on its website on Thursday (14), a day ahead of the Supreme Court-fixed deadline.

In a landmark verdict delivered on February 15, the apex court had scrapped the electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous political funding.

Following a court directive, the State Bank of India (SBI), the authorised seller of electoral bonds, shared the data with the election commission on March 12.

Apart from Lakshmi Mittal, those who donated in an individual capacity include Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Rs 60 million), Indigo airline founder Rahul Bhatia (Rs 200 million), among others.

The prominent corporate buyers include Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Airtel (Rs 2.46 billion), Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta (Rs 3.98 billion), ITC, and Mahindra and Mahindra.

However, it is some of the lesser-known entities that have topped the list among corporate buyers.

They include Future Gaming and Hotel Services (Rs 13.5 billion), Megha Engineering (Rs 9.6 billion), Qwik Supply Chain Pvt Ltd (Rs 4.1 billion) and Haldia Energy (Rs 3.7 billion).

Future Gaming was investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in March 2022 for money laundering.

Megha Engineering, a Hyderabad based company, bagged contracts for several large infrastructure projects after beating some well-known established players.

The other corporate buyers include Spicejet, Grasim Industries, Piramal Enterprises, Torrent Power, DLF Commercial Developers, Apollo Tyres, Edelweiss, PVR, Keventer, among others.

The political parties that redeemed electoral bonds include BJP, Congress, AIADMK, BRS, Shiv Sena, TDP, YSR Congress, DMK, JD-S, NCP, Trinamool Congress, JDU, RJD, AAP, the Samajwadi Party, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, BJD, Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, JMM, Sikkim Democratic Front, and the Jana Sena Party.

The SBI has said a total of 22,217 electoral bonds of varying denominations were purchased by donors between April 1, 2019 and February 15 this year, out of which 22,030 were redeemed by political parties.

Bank told to disclose bond numbers

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday (15) said the State Bank of India should have disclosed the unique alpha-numeric numbers of the electoral bonds received by political parties and sought the bank’s response.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, said the SBI has not fully complied with the Court’s order of March 11 in which it had ordered the bank to disclose all details concerning electoral bonds.

The data released on Thursday (14) does not map electoral bond buyers to recipients, leaving it unclear which individual and corporate donors were funding which parties.

Call for probe

Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, who is arguing for the petitioners in the Supreme Court, described the electoral bonds scheme as a “very big scam” and demanded that a special investigation team be set up with court-appointed officials to probe the alleged quid pro quo and wrongdoings under it.

Sibal alleged at a press conference in New Delhi that the scheme was “illegal” and aimed at enriching a political party in such a manner that no other party can compete with it.

He said those prosecuted by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have been generous enough to give donations to political parties. Once the payoffs were made, no further action was taken.

He also pointed out that there are donor companies that were incurring losses or those whose profit was lesser than the amounts they have donated. That also needs to be probed, he added. (Agencies)

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