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  • The Hurried Arrest of Kejriwal and The Electoral Bond Mystery

    Published on March 23, 2024

    Our Special Correspondent

    New Delhi: The arrest of Delhi Chief Minister and AAP supremo Aravind Kejriwal was never unexpected. His arrest was impending ever since K Kavita, the daughter of former Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao and the powerful leader of Bharat Rashtra Samiti was arrested by the Enforcement directorate in connection with the alleged Delhi Liquor Policy scam. Kavita was arrested on March 15 this year from Hyderabad and Kejriwal arrested from his official residence on Thursday night. Both were arrested by the Enforcement Directorate under PMLA and were remanded by the court.

    Earlier P Sarath Chandra Reddy, Director at Aurobindo Pharma was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on November 10, 2022 on charges of his alleged involvement in “cartelisation of licences and moving kickbacks in the entire liquor licencing process.” Interestingly five days after his arrest, Reddy’s Aurobindo Pharma purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 5 crore on November 15, 2022. On November 21, the BJP encashed this sum, bond data exposes.  Not just that Between April 2021 and November 2023, Aurobindo Pharma purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 52 crore. According to the data published by the Election Commission of India (furnished by SBI as per the directions of the Supreme Court on 15 this year) reveals that over 66 percent of the bond found its way to the BJP kitty. This means Reddy had “donated” over 30 crore rupees since his arrest- Besides the Rs 5-crore purchase in November 2022, the company bought bonds worth Rs 25 crore in November 2023. These bonds were encashed by the BJP on November 21, 2022, and November 17, 2023, respectively.

    Reddy’s Aurobindo Pharma is a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer. In 2023, it earned revenue to the tune of Rs 24,000 crore. The company exports its products to over 150 countries worldwide, with approximately 90% of its revenue generated from international operations.

    It is surprising the accused Reddy files a plea in the Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court and on May 29, 2023 The special court of judge M K Nagpal allows him to turn approver. On June 1, 2023 the court granted a pardon Reddy made him approver in the alleged excise policy scam that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is probing.

     The reporters collective, in its latest story “Electoral bonds: The art of extracting wealth from loss-making firms” has listed out the details of many such electoral bonds purchased by corporates and enchased by various political parties.

    A careful analysis of the details of the electoral bonds published by the Election Commission of India reveals that even the lossmaking business houses have donate large funds to the political parties, particularly to those ruling at the centre and states through electoral bonds. “At least 16 of the top 200 firms in the electoral bonds list donated even when they ran their business in loss for three previous consecutive years. While in losses they cumulatively donated a whopping Rs 710 crore to political parties. Of this, Rs 460 crore (over 60%) went to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

    In fact the Election Commission and the Reserve Bank of India had shared their fears about such dubious donations when the Modi government at the Centre introduced the Electoral Bonds scheme in 2017 by amending four major laws. These institutions feared that using the scheme shell companies and others could funnel unaccounted and untaxed money from India and abroad into political parties and manipulate those in power.

    Prior to the introduction the now scrapped electoral bond a company could donate only up to 7.5% of the average profits it earned over three previous fiscals. This ensured that only legitimate companies, doing some business, could donate to the political parties. There was a cap on how much the corporates could donate.

    To facilitate corporates, the BJP government struck off a line in the Companies Act in the 2017 Union budget and removed this cap.

    The Reporters’ Collective in its analytical study of the corporate filings of the last three years by the top 200 firms that donated through bonds found that “if the 7.5% cap had been retained, 16 of these 200 companies would not have been allowed to donate a single rupee to the political parties. Furthermore, these 200 firms together would have been permitted to donate only Rs 21 lakh this year. But the fact is: these companies together donated Rs 8,700 crore to political parties.”

    The study reveals that “Telecom giant Bharti Airtel has reported an average loss of Rs 9,716 crore between the financial year 2020-21 and 2022-23. Despite plummeting fortunes in the preceding three financial years, the company donated Rs 197.6 crore to political parties. Of this, Rs 197 crore went to BJP, Rs 50 lakh to the National Conference and Rs 10 lakh to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).”

    The DLF Commercial Developers Limited, part of the realty major DLF group, donated Rs 20 crore in the financial year 2019-20 despite incurring a loss of Rs 210 crore in the same period. The company donated a total of Rs 130 crore through electoral bonds, all of which went to BJP.

    “Apart from these loss-making 16, at least 31 firms donated much beyond their three-year average profits. Kolkata-based liquor distribution firm Castle Liquors Private Limited barely managed an average of a little over Rs 6 lakh in the last three years but donated Rs 7.5 crore – 118 times more – to political parties. About 90% or Rs 6.8 crore went to BJP and the remaining Rs 70 lakh to RJD.”

    Lottery king Santiago Martin’s Future Gaming and Hotel Services Private Limited, the biggest electoral bonds donor, donated over 16 times its average three-year profits. It donated Rs 1,368 crore in total, of which over Rs 540 crore went to Trinamool Congress (TMC), Rs 509 crore went to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Rs 159 crore to YSR Congress, Rs 100 crore to BJP, Rs 80 lakh to Sikkim Krantikari Morcha and Rs 50 lakh to Sikkim Democratic Front.

    Similarly, Reliance-linked Qwik Supply Chain, which emerged as the third largest donor, donated 15 times its profit. Qwik Supply Chain donated over Rs 375 crore, or 90% of its total donations, to BJP. It donated Rs 25 crore to the Shiv Sena and the remaining Rs 10 crore to the Nationalist Congress Party.

    One of the top 10 donors, Madanlal Ltd, a company linked to Kolkata-based Keventer Group, donated over 56 times its average three-year profit. It donated Rs 185.5 crore in the financial year 2019-2020, of which Rs 175.5 crore went to BJP and the remaining Rs 10 crore to the Congress.

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