How the disclosure of political funding via electoral bonds aided misinformation

How the disclosure of political funding via electoral bonds aided misinformation

By: ilma hasan&
March 26 2024

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How the disclosure of political funding via electoral bonds aided misinformation

(Source: Wikimedia Commons/Modified by Logically Facts)


The release of massive datasets over the last two weeks revealing crucial information on corporations funding Indian political parties has flooded social media platforms with misinformation and misleading claims weeks before the South Asian nation heads to elections. 

Following a Supreme Court order, the State Bank of India (SBI) and then the Election Commission of India (ECI) made public information on electoral bonds — a largely opaque system introduced in 2018 under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) permitting donors to buy redeemable paper instruments from the multinational public sector bank to give to political parties.

Anonymity of the donor aided a lack of transparency — undermining the intended goal behind introducing the electoral bonds system, which was to “cleanse” political funding. The apex court scrapped the scheme, which allowed limitless donations, in February, calling it unconstitutional. The court said, “The ability of a company to influence the electoral process through political contributions is much higher when compared to that of an individual … contributions made by companies are purely business transactions made with the intent of securing benefits in return.”

Experts say findings linking companies with government contracts are commensurate with what was said in the order. For instance, The Reporter’s Collective wrote on how the second-largest political donor, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited, has been under scrutiny for getting state infrastructure projects, winning a central government contract tunnel project after emerging as the lowest bidder, and also a defense project worth Rs 500 crore. 

As the revelations around electoral bonds raise issues about corruption and political funding in India, misinformation about the scheme and the now-public transaction details is diverting attention from the facts. 

Citing incorrect figures and details 

Logically Facts debunked Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim downplaying the funding BJP received, alleging it was Rs 6,000 crore out of a total of  Rs. 20,000 crore. We found the party received over Rs 8,200 crores from over Rs 16,000 crore — more than 50 percent of all donations. 

A screenshot of details of a donation made by the now-defunct Delhi-based company called ‘Hub Power Company’ was falsely linked to a Pakistani organization with a similar name, alleging the contribution was made after the 2019 Pulwama terror attack. However, we found the organization in question is a "fake company," which wasn’t registered with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and was shut down for fraud. The namesake Pakistani company also had to issue a clarification over the matter.

Another widely circulated claim stated that the Serum Institute of India donated Rs 52 crores to the BJP through electoral bonds in August 2022. We found the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers had actually donated to the ruling party via an electoral trust, in this case, the Prudent Electoral Trust. An electoral trust is made by corporations to allocate contributions they receive from other companies and individuals to political parties.

A viral post on social media also falsely claimed that the electoral bond details released by SBI and ECI indicated that no donations were made by Reliance Group owner Mukesh Ambani or the founder of Adani Group, Gautam Adani. The post also claimed that the opposition party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), was the sole state party that was a recipient of a substantial donation.

However, we found that four companies associated with the Adani Group collectively donated Rs 55.4 crore via electoral bonds, and a Reliance-affiliated company procured electoral bonds worth Rs 410 crore, contributing Rs 375 crore to the BJP and Rs 35 crore to Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Electoral bond data also clearly indicates that while TMC received the highest amount among state parties, several other parties also received substantial donations.

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before