The State Bank of India has sold electoral bonds worth Rs 6,128 crore since their introduction in March 2018, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
Announced in the 2017 Union Budget, electoral bonds are interest-free bearer bonds that are used to donate money anonymously to political parties. The bonds are issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore; SBI is the only bank authorised to sell them. Buyers can donate the bonds to a party of their choice and these can then be cashed by the party through its verified account within 15 days.
At the time of its announcement in 2017, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the scheme was aimed at protecting the identity of donors who fear adverse consequences for contributing to one political party.
However, the Election Commission and civil society have opposed the scheme and the opacity it has brought into political funding. A petition challenging the scheme is pending with the Supreme Court.
According to ADR figures, the largest value of electoral bonds (Rs 4,444 crore) was sold during the quarter coinciding with the Lok Sabha elections. The highest sale (Rs 2,256 crore) happened in the month of May.