No, this graphic doesn't show SII 'donated Rs 52 crore' to BJP via electoral bonds

By: Rahul Adhikari
March 18 2024

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No, this graphic doesn't show SII 'donated Rs 52 crore' to BJP via electoral bonds

Social media posts claim SII donated 52 crore rupees to BJP via electoral bonds. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

The graphic actually shows money transferred to the BJP through an electoral trust by SII. The company didn’t donate Rs. 52 crore via electoral bonds.

Claim ID 572e4800

What is the claim?

A graphic circulating on social media claims that the Serum Institute of India (SII) donated Rs. 52 crore to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through electoral bonds. This graphic, which lists company names alongside the dates and amounts of money allegedly transferred to "Prudent" and subsequently to the BJP, suggests that SII contributed Rs. 502.5 million (Rs. 50.25 crore) directly to the BJP.

The graphic gained traction on X (formerly Twitter), with one such post alleging, "🚨🚨BIG EXPOSE: SERUM INSTITUTE OF INDIA donated 52 Crore Rupees in a single day to the BJP as electoral bonds. Now you can understand why no other vaccine was allowed in India.🤯🤯 #ElectoralBondsScam.”

Accompanying the graphic is a screenshot of a news report from Reuters, dated September 2021, titled "India govt won't buy Pfizer, Moderna vaccines amid local output -sources," suggesting a connection between the donation and vaccine approval decisions. One such post has amassed over 67,000 views and 3,500 likes. Archived versions of the posts can be found here and here.


Screenshots of the viral posts. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)

However, the claim misrepresents the facts. The Pune-based biotechnology company and vaccine manufacturer did not donate through electoral bonds but through the Prudent Electoral Trust. Moreover, the assertion that no other vaccine was permitted in India besides SII's is incorrect, as India approved several vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What did we find?

Our review of the viral graphic revealed that the Serum Institute transferred funds to "Prudent" in three installments throughout August 2022, culminating in a total donation of Rs. 502.5 million to the BJP on August 18. A note in the document suggests that contributions to the Prudent Electoral Trust were promptly disbursed to the BJP, and Reuters was credited for the graphic.

Taking a cue from these details, we found that the graphic featured in a Reuters news report dated March 14, 2024, titled ‘Obscure trust links India's top businesses with Modi's election war chest.’ 


Screenshot of the news report by Reuters. (Source: Reuters/Screenshot)

What is Prudent Electoral Trust?

The Reuters report stated that Prudent Electoral Trust, an electoral trust headquartered in New Delhi, is the largest-known donor to the BJP. The trust has raised roughly Rs. 272 million since its creation in 2013 and donated 75 percent of the funds to BJP. 

The report highlighted Prudent's lack of transparency in disclosing how donations from individual corporate donors are allocated. However, Reuters discovered that several leading companies, such as SII, Bharti Airtel, and ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India, have made significant contributions to the BJP via the electoral trust. An analysis of publicly available data from 2018 to 2022 revealed that eight companies made substantial transfers to the trust. Subsequently, the trust issued cheques to the BJP in the exact amounts as those received from these companies.

Electoral bonds vs electoral trusts

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), electoral trusts are established by corporations specifically to allocate contributions they receive from other companies and individuals to political parties. These trusts must distribute 95 percent of their income as contributions to political parties. The then Congress-led central government initiated 'The Electoral Trusts Scheme' in 2013, which outlines eligibility and procedures for electoral trust registration and specifies the format for their registration.

Information on contributions, including the names of contributing companies and the dates of contributions, is accessible on the Election Commission of India (ECI) website. This follows the Election Commission's 2014 guidelines requiring electoral trusts to submit reports on their contributions.

In 2018, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government introduced the Electoral Bonds (EB) scheme. Electoral bonds are interest-free bearer instruments that companies and individuals can purchase from authorized State Bank of India (SBI) branches. The identity and other details of the donor are not recorded on the bond, allowing for donor anonymity. Political parties are obligated to encash these bonds within a specified period.

What does the Prudent data show?

We reviewed the annual report submitted by the Prudent Electoral Trust to the Election Commission of India, available on their website. 

According to the report, SII contributed Rs. 400 million on August 1, 2022, Rs. 100 million on August 2, 2022, and Rs. 2.5 million on August 17, 2022. All the transactions were made via Axis Bank. Apart from the BJP, funds were distributed to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP), and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), now known as the Bharat Rashtra Samiti. It should be noted that a majority of the funds were transferred to the BJP.

Donation made by the Serum Institute of India to the Prudent Electoral Trust. (Source: ECI/Modified by Logically Facts)

The document also shows that the trust issued a cheque of the same amount to BJP on August 18, 2022.

The data shows a cheque worth 502.5 million rupees transferred to BJP. (Source: Source: ECI/Modified by Logically Facts) 

Was SII’s the only vaccine allowed in India?

In a Lok Sabha response from July 2021, it was reported that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) authorized several vaccines for COVID-19 prevention for restricted emergency use. This authorization included vaccines such as Moderna and SPUTNIK-V, among others.

Further scrutiny revealed an additional list by CDSCO, indicating that besides SII's Covishield, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin also received approval for manufacturing, sale, or distribution within India. Additionally, 16 other vaccines were sanctioned for restricted emergency use. This information confirms that SII's vaccine was not the sole option available in India.

The list of approved COVID-19 vaccines in India. (Source: CDSCO/Screenshot)

The verdict

A graphic showing funds transferred to an electoral trust has been circulated with the false claim that it represents a Rs. 52 crore donation from the Serum Institute of India to the BJP through electoral bonds, misrepresented as purchases of electoral bonds. Therefore, we have marked the claim as false.

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