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New Delhi. Lok Sabha elections have been announced. But the issue of electoral bonds is still burning. The BJP, the ruling party at the Centre, has been the biggest beneficiary of electoral bonds, redeeming a total of Rs 6,061 crore between April 2019 and February 2024, according to data published by the Election Commission and State Bank of India. During the same period, Trinamool Congress (TMC) managed to cash in Rs 1,610 crore and Congress managed to cash in Rs 1,422 crore. Read this also: BREAKING: Lok Sabha election dates announced, elections to be held in 7 phases, counting of votes to be held on June 4…

A different pattern of fund arrival is visible in all these political parties that have received electoral bonds. The BJP earned more or less the same amount of cash throughout the year, while the fortunes of TMC and Congress were more closely linked to elections and especially electoral victories.

SBI issued electoral bonds in 22 tranches between April 2019 and February 2024. In these instalments, the BJP encashed an average of Rs 275.5 crore in each window, almost three times more than TMC's average of Rs 73.2 crore and Congress's Rs 64.6 crore.

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The BJP cashed in Rs 1,772 crore in April and May 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which is 29.2% of the party's total collection since April 2019. In contrast, Congress encashed only Rs 168.6 crore and TMC encashed only Rs 51.7 crore during the general elections.

After lagging in July 2019, BJP received Rs 185.2 crore in October 2019. Whereas Congress encashed only Rs 1.8 crore. This fund was received before the assembly elections in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. The BJP won in Haryana with the support of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) and in Maharashtra with ally Shiv Sena (undivided at that time), while the Congress-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) alliance came to power in Jharkhand.

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During the Covid-affected installments of October 2020 and January 2021, funds for BJP, Congress and TMC declined despite assembly elections in Bihar. While TMC received Rs 43.4 crore before the West Bengal assembly elections, BJP and Congress received Rs 43.4 crore during this period. Only Rs 25.4 crore and Rs 10.1 crore were received respectively.

All three parties saw their next rise in April 2021, when elections were going on in West Bengal. That month, BJP encashed Rs 291.5 crore, Congress encashed Rs 58.8 crore and TMC encashed Rs 55.4 crore.

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However, the BJP recorded a significant improvement in becoming the opposition party in the Assembly despite a negligible presence in the state, in the two electoral bond windows after the results (July and October 2021), compared to TMC's Rs 249.5 crore which returned to power for the third consecutive time. Only Rs 80 crores were encashed. Whereas Congress, which reached zero in the assembly elections, received Rs 58.1 crore from electoral bonds after the elections.

In January 2022, BJP's election fund increased to Rs 662.2 crore, while Congress's income also increased by Rs 119.3 crore. Funding reduced just before the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. The BJP came to power in all the states except one – Punjab, where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ousted the Congress from power.

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Notably, TMC cashed in Rs 224.2 crore in January 2022 despite contesting only the Goa elections. Later in 2022, during the assembly elections held in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in November and December, the BJP cashed in Rs 990.3 crore in three phases, while the Congress collected Rs 104.6 crore.

In a direct contest between the two national parties, BJP registered a massive victory in Gujarat, while Congress shocked the incumbent BJP in Himachal. While BJP encashed Rs 192.8 crore in January 2023 immediately after its victory, Congress could collect only Rs 91 lakh.

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Despite not contesting any of these elections, TMC cashed in Rs 240.6 crore in four windows between October 2022 and January 2023, putting it well ahead of the Congress. Assembly elections were also held in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland in January 2023, in which all alliances, including the BJP, won.

A month ahead of the hotly contested Karnataka Assembly elections in April 2023, the BJP and Congress saw a significant increase in funds. While the state's incumbent party BJP encashed Rs 334.2 crore, Congress received Rs 190.6 crore, which was the biggest amount for a party in the state.