India's electoral bonds: Lakshmi Mittal among top buyers – EasternEye

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, chief executive of UK-based multinational steelmaker ArcelorMittal, is among the prominent buyers of recently scrapped electoral bonds for political donations in India. He bought bonds worth Rs 350 crore individually.

The Electoral Commission published the data on electoral bonds on its website on Thursday (14), one day before the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

In a historic verdict issued on February 15, the Apex cut had scrapped the electoral bond plan that allowed anonymous political financing.

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

Apart from Lakshmi Mittal, those who donated individually included Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Rs 60 crore), Indigo airline founder Rahul Bhatia (Rs 200 crore), among others.

Prominent corporate buyers include Sunil Bharti Mittal's Airtel (Rs 2,460 crore), Anil Agarwal's Vedanta (Rs 3,980 crore), ITC and Mahindra and Mahindra.

However, it is some of the lesser-known entities that top 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 big infrastructure projects after beating some well-established players.

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

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, Samajwadi Party, Jammu National Conference and Cashmere. , BJD, Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, JMM, Sikkim Democratic Front and Jana Sena Party.

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

Bank asked to reveal bond numbers

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court said on Friday (15) that the State Bank of India should have revealed the unique alphanumeric numbers of electoral bonds received by political parties and sought the bank's response.

A five-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said the SBI has not fully complied with the Court's March 11 order in which it had directed the bank to disclose all details relating to the electoral bonds. .

The data published on Thursday (14) does not assign buyers of electoral bonds to recipients, leaving it unclear which individual and corporate donors financed which parties.

Call for investigation

Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, defending the petitioners in the Supreme Court, described the electoral bond scheme as a “big scam” and demanded that a special investigation team with court-appointed officials be set up to probe the alleged quid pro. quo and the evil actions that follow from it.

Sibal alleged at a news conference in New Delhi that the scheme was “illegal” and aimed to enrich a political party in such a way that no other party could compete with it.

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

He also noted that there are donor companies that were suffering losses or whose profits were less than the amounts they donated. That also needs to be investigated, he added. (Agencies)

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