Meet the top 10: Lakshmi Mittal bought 10% of bonds purchased by individuals

The top 10 bought electoral bonds worth Rs 172 crore.

WrittenBy:Sumedha Mittal& Nikita Singh
Lakshmi Mittal with unknown figures.

In October 2022, Prime Minister Modi decided to use the occasion of Diwali to congratulate India’s citizens for the expansion of the ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India plant in Gujarat’s Hazira.

An odd choice for a festive event, but Modi explained that the plant would open “many doors of new possibilities” to move India towards self-reliance.

The plant in question is India’s largest, set up as a joint venture between Lakshmi Mittal’s ArcelorMittal and Japan’s Nippon Steel Corporation. The joint venture was announced in 2019, the same year that Mittal purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 35 crore, as per data released by the Election Commission on March 14.

The EC listed 1,313 donors of which 368 are individuals, not companies. And Mittal leads the pack of individual donors who collectively bought electoral bonds worth Rs 378 crore.

Importantly, the top 10 individuals purchased bonds worth Rs 172 crore – 45 percent of the total bought by individuals. They’re businessmen spanning sectors like aviation, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and communication, though some of the 10 are fairly obscure.

Here’s the list.

#1: Lakshmi Mittal

The 73-year-old steel magnate himself accounts for 9.2 percent of all electoral bonds purchased by individuals, purchasing 35 bonds of Rs 1 crore each on April 8, 2019. This window of purchase was just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which the BJP was tipped to win – and win it did. 

Two years later, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel submitted a “wish list” to the Gujarat CM’s office for “expected assistance” to expand the plant. The company also signed a Rs 1,600 crore investment deal with the state government last year, and an MoU this year to further expand the plant.

Mittal, who lives in London, sparked a controversy after he made donations to the Labour Party in 2001 and 2007. The first time, he gave the party 125,000 pounds. The second time, he donated two million pounds,  

#2: Laxmidas Vallabh Asmita Mercha 

The Reporters Collective identified “Mercha” as Laxmidas Vallabhdas Merchant and one Asmita Merchant, who are “related to each other”. Merchant is the group controller at Reliance Industries. He purchased electoral bonds of Rs 25 crore in November 2023. The report said he’s also a director in at least six companies linked to Reliance’s takeover of the Network18 conglomerate.  

#3: KR Raja JT

This individual purchased electoral bonds with Rs 25 crore on a single day. That was November 17, 2023 during a two-week window to purchase bonds during the assembly polls in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana. We now know the BJP was the biggest beneficiary of bonds bought in this phase, encashing Rs 703 crore of a total of Rs 1,006 crore.

But who is KR Raja JT? No one seems to know.

#4: Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia is speculated to be the 68-year-old CEO of InterGlobe Aviation which owns Indigo. As the fourth biggest individual donor, Bhatia purchased bonds worth Rs 20 crore on April 7, 2021 during a 10-day window that coincided with elections in Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Assam and West Bengal.

InterGlobe Aviation also purchased bonds worth Rs 5 crore in October 2023. Two of its subsidiaries – InterGlobe Air Transport and InterGlobe Venture Pvt. Ltd – purchased bonds worth Rs 11 crore and Rs 20 crore respectively around the time of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. 

#5: Inder Thakurdas Jaisinghani

Jaisinghani is the chairman and managing director of Polycab India, the country’s largest manufacturer of wire and cables. In his individual capacity, he bought bonds worth Rs 10 crore in April 2023 and Rs 4 crore in October 2023 – a total of Rs 14 crore. 

#6: Rajesh Mannalal Aggarwal

Aggarwal is the chairman of Ajanta Pharma, a director at SBFC Finance Ltd and Gabs Investment Private Ltd, and a partner at Riteaid Enterprises LLP. He bought bonds worth Rs 13 crore across multiple windows in January and April 2022 and in April, October and November 2023.

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#7 and 8: Harmesh and Rahul Joshi

Rahul Jagannath Joshi and his son Harmesh Rahul Joshi are joint directors at Seven Hills Shipping and Om Freight Forwarders Europe, operating in transport, communication and storage. The father-son duo bought bonds in tandem – Rs 10 crore each in January 2022 and Rs 10 crore each in November 2023. Both periods coincided with assembly polls. 

#9 and 10: Raju Kumar Sharma and Saurabh Gupta

Both bought bonds with Rs 10 crore. Sharma’s purchase was in January 2020 and Gupta’s in April 2019. We were unable to establish either of their antecedents.

Update at 10 pm, Mar 16: This report has been updated with more details on Mittal’s contributions to the Labour Party.

Update at 7.45 pm on March 22: The electoral bonds bought by eight of the top 10 individual donors were encashed only by the BJP, making up 83 percent, or Rs 144 crore of the total Rs 172 crore. Of the remaining Rs 28 crore spent by two other donors, Rs 16.2 crore went to the Trinamool Congress, Rs 5 crore to the BRS, Rs 3.80 crore to NCP, and Rs 3 crore to the Congress. 

The individuals who donated only to the BJP include Lakshmi Mittal, Laxmidas Vallabhdas Merchant, KR Raja JT, Inder Thakurdas Jaisinghani, Harmesh Joshi, Rahul Joshi, Raju Kumar Sharma and Saurabh Gupta. 

This report is part of a collaborative project involving three news organisations – Newslaundry, Scroll, The News Minute – and several independent journalists.

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