New Delhi: Kolkata-based Keventer Group gave over Rs 320 crore to BJP in electoral bonds – half of its total donations – just when the Enforcement Directorate was snapping at its heels over a disinvestment case.

Keventer Group was embroiled in an investigation into whether the state government undervalued its shares while selling its stake in Metro Dairy, a joint venture with the group in the dairy sector.

In 2018, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury went to the Calcutta High Court seeking an inquiry against the state government for underselling 47% share in the joint venture to its partner Keventer Agro Limited at Rs 85.5 crore.

Soon after the state’s stake sale, Keventer group sold nearly 15% of its shares at Rs 170 crore, fuelling allegations of undervaluation by the government. An inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate followed.

Top officials of the West Bengal government were questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in August 2019 during enquiry into the accusations of undervaluation in favour of Keventer. In September 2022, the Supreme Court dismissed the case and upheld West Bengal’s disinvestment.

Four companies of the group donated around Rs 616 crore to political parties through electoral bonds. More than half of the money, at least Rs 320 crore went to the Bharatiya Janata Party in FY 2020, when the ED case was red hot.

In total, it gave BJP Rs 351.92 crore.

Previously, while we knew the amount donated by corporations like Keventer Group, the specific code in the electoral bond that helped connect the donor to the receiver was not made available. However, now that this code has been made public by the SBI under the orders of the apex court, it allows us to identify who donated how much to whom.

This transparency is particularly significant for major political parties such as the BJP, Congress, and Trinamool Congress, as unlike some smaller parties, they had not previously provided donor details to the Election Commission in compliance with a prior Supreme Court directive.

All the four companies of the Keventer Group that donated electoral bonds share the same registered address.

The Collective studied corporate records of the four companies over five years to estimate their financial health and ability to support political parties. Here's what we found.

Keventer Foodpark Infra Private Limited donated Rs 195 crore in FY 2019-20, even though it had earned a profit of only Rs 12.4 lakh. It gave Rs 144.5 crore to BJP, Rs 20 crore to Trinamool Congress, Rs 20 crore to Congress and Rs 50 lakh to Shiromani Akali Dal.

Under the previous rules capping political donations via electoral bonds, Keventer Foodpark Infra wouldn't have been able to donate. The rules limited contributions to 7.5% of the average net profit of the previous three years. Keventer Foodpark Infra experienced an average loss of Rs 5 lakh during that period. Later, the cap was removed, enabling even firms with zero revenue to donate.

Similarly, Madanlal Limited, another Keventer linked company, donated Rs 185.5 crore in FY 2020. Of the total, Rs 175.5 crore went to BJP. Congress received Rs 10 crore. The company’s profit in the year was Rs 5.18 crore. Averaging for three previous years, the company suffered a loss of Rs 2.5 crore. It wouldn’t have been able to donate if the electoral bond rules were not tweaked for donations.

Another Keventer company, MKJ Enterprises Limited, donated Rs 192.42 crore through bonds -- Rs 91.6 crore to Congress, Rs 45.9 crore to Trinamool Congress, Rs 26.92 crore to BJP, Rs 10 crore to BJD, Rs 7 crore to AAP, and Rs 1 crore to JMM.

It donated Rs 14.42 crore in FY 2019-20. Going by the previous cap of 7.5 % of its average profit for three preceding financial years, it could have donated only Rs 26 lakh.

MKJ’s donations in FY 2020 went to BJP. In the following financial years, they went to other parties.

Keventer’s Sasmal Infrastructure donated Rs 39 crore to Congress and Rs 5 crore to BJP, in FY 2024. For the preceding three years, it suffered a loss of Rs 48.3 lakh.

For some periods, we could not access corporate records of some companies and were unable to calculate corresponding figures.