MEIL most frequent buyer of poll bonds

Started buying bonds 2 months before Kaleshwaram's inauguration

Hyderabad: Hyderabad-based infrastructure company Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) was the most frequent purchaser of electoral bonds in the country, beating even the largest donor Future Gaming and Hotel Services Private Limited, data released by the Election Commission of India showed.

An analysis of disclosure made by the State Bank of India on purchasers of electoral bonds showed that MEIL had bought 966 electoral bonds, each valued at Rs 1 crore, in 15 tranches — April, May and October in 2019; October 2020; April and October 2021; January, April, July, October and December 2022; January, April, July and October 2023.

Compared to MEIL, Future Gaming bought 1,368 electoral bonds in 10 tranches — October 2020, April, July and October 2021; January, April, July, October and December 2022, and January 2023.

While Future Gaming did not buy any electoral bonds for more than a year, MEIL has been consistent in buying electoral bonds since April 2019.

In terms of the value, MEIL bought Rs 966 crore worth electoral bonds during this period, while Future Gaming bought Rs 1,368 crore worth electoral bonds. Apart from MEIL, the SBI data also shows three companies associated with MEIL cumulatively donated Rs 266 crore.

MEIL bought Rs 130 crore worth electoral bonds in the financial year 2019-20, Rs 20 crore in FY 2020-21, Rs 248 crore in FY 2021-22, Rs 193 crore in FY 2022-23 and Rs 375 crore in FY 2023-24.

According to the Crisil Ratings’ note, MEIL earned a consolidated profit after tax of Rs 2,601 crore in FY 2021-22 and Rs 2,797 crore in FY 2022-23 from its 100 group companies. The company’s political funding through electoral bonds in FY 2021-22 as a percentage of its consolidated profit stood at 9.5 per cent and at 6.9 per cent in 2022-23.

MEIL rose to limelight after it won the Telangana state government’s Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project. Incidentally, the company started buying electoral bonds in April 2019, two months before the Kaleshwaram project was inaugurated by then Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao in June 2019.

The company was raided by the income-tax department in October 2019 citing alleged malfunctioning or irregularities in its accounts.

The details of electoral bonds were disclosed by the SBI after the Supreme Court scrapped them as the five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, said the electoral bonds “violate Article 21 because the non-disclosure of information of political contributions promotes corruption and quid pro quo arrangements.”

“The available data indicates that more than 94 per cent of the total electoral bonds are purchased in denominations of `1 crore. This indicates that bonds are purchased by corporates and not individuals,” the Supreme Court observed in its February 15 judgment.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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