The Hyderabad branch of the State Bank of India (SBI) sold the highest amount of electoral bonds in the latest sale window (Phase 29) between November 6 and November 20 at Rs 359 crore. SBI’s Hyderabad branch also sold the highest number of Rs 1 crore denomination electoral bonds. These figures were revealed by SBI in response to an RTI filed by transparency activist Commodore Lokesh Batra. Incidentally, the Hyderabad branch also sold the highest amount of electoral bonds in the previous sale window in October. The October and November sale window for electoral bonds came just weeks before the Telangana Assembly elections, which were held on November 30.
The RTI, however, showed that the SBI branches of other states that went to polls were not as high. While SBI’s Jaipur branch sold electoral bonds amounting to Rs 31.50 crore, the Raipur branch and Bhopal branch sold electoral bonds valued at Rs 5.75 crore and 1 crore. Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madya Pradesh also saw state elections in November. As far as the elections are concerned, while Congress swept to power in Telangana, the BJP emerged victorious in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.
SBI’s Mumbai branch sold the second highest amount of electoral bonds at over Rs 259 crore, followed by New Delhi with over Rs 182 crore worth of bonds sold. Among SBI’s southern branches, Chennai sold electoral bonds amounting to Rs 32 crore, while Bengaluru sold Rs 4 crore worth of electoral bonds, revealed the RTI.
Like in the other phases, the Rs one crore denomination bonds are the most favoured among donors. In the latest phase, 997 of the total 1109 electoral bonds sold were Rs one crore denomination.
SBI is the only bank authorised to issue and encash electoral bonds. Electoral bonds are anonymous, interest-free bearer bonds that can be purchased by individuals or companies to make donations to political parties. While the lowest denomination is Rs 1000, the highest is Rs 1 crore. RTIs have in the past revealed that only 23 out of 105 political parties are eligible to receive and encash electoral bonds. Since electoral bonds are anonymous, opposition parties and activists have alleged that the bonds can be used as quid pro quo and can also be used as a channel to convert black money into white. Over the past six years, the BJP has been the biggest beneficiary of electoral bonds, earning 57% of the total donations.