No transparency in source of funds of political parties, reveals RTI

NEW DELHI, 28/03/2012: Selling of Bharatiya Janata Party election campaigning material for the upcoming MCD election at the Delhi State BJP headquarter in New Delhi on March 28, 2012 Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Only 11.89 per cent of the Congress income and 22.76 per cent of the BJP income in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 financial year have come from donations received in excess of Rs. 20,000, the two parties have claimed in contribution reports submitted to the Election Commission of India.

In a detailed analysis of the Income Tax returns filed and donations received by the political parties, the National Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms have raised several questions on the lack of transparency regarding the source of funds that the parties claimed to have received in the past years.

According to the I-T returns filed by various parties and contribution reports submitted to the EC which are accessed by these two organisations through the Right to Information Act, the top five parties with the highest income between 2004-05 and 2010-11 were: the Congress with Rs. 2,008 crore, the BJP - Rs. 994 crore, the BSP – Rs. 484 crore, the CPI(M) – Rs. 417 crore and the SP – Rs. 279 crore.

While donations and voluntary contributions accounted for a major source of income, donations from named contributors (those who donated more than Rs.20,000 and are to be mandatorily declared) formed a very small percentage of the total income of the parties.

For 2009-10 and 2010-11, while 81 per cent of the BJP’s funding accrued from donations (total income: Rs. 426 crore, total donations: Rs. 347 crore), only 22.76 per cent of the total income came from named donors who had contributed over Rs. 20,000.

The corresponding figures for the Congress indicate that while donations accounted for only 14.42 per cent of the total income, a mere 11.89 per cent of the total income was from named donors. The Congress has raised Rs. 573 crore of its total income of Rs. 774 crore from 2009 to 2011 through sale of coupons.

Interestingly, the BSP, which declared an income of Rs.172 crore for the past two years, said donations accounted for Rs. 99 crore, but stated that it received zero donations over Rs.20,000. The two organisations cited these figures to state that the public could deduce very little on who funded India’s political parties.

While the CPI declared that 57 per cent of its income from 2009 to 2011 (total income - Rs. 3.41 crore, donation in excess of Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 1.94 crore) came from named donors, the CPI(M) (total income - Rs.149.85 crore, donation over Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 1.93 crore) said only 1.29 per cent of its donations were in excess of Rs.20,000.

Among the top donors for the national parties include a number of trusts. The General Electoral Trust has donated Rs. 36.46 crore to the Congress and Rs. 7 crore to the BJP from 2004 to 2011. Electoral Trust made donations of Rs. 9.96 crore to the Congress. A company called Torrent Power Ltd. has donated Rs. 11.85 crore to the Congress, Rs. 10.5 crore to the BJP, and Rs. 1 crore to the NCP between 2004 and 2011.

Sterlite Industries, a subsidiary of the Vedanta group that is listed on the London Stock Exchange, donated Rs. 6 crore to the Congress in 2004-05 and 2009-10 while the Madras Aluminium Company Limited, also a subsidiary of Vedanta, contributed Rs. 3.5 crore to the BJP. The Public and Political Awareness Trust of Vedanta has made an overall contribution of Rs.9.5 crore to the BJP during 2003-04 and 2004-05.

According to the National Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms, the other trusts and companies which have made contributions to the political parties include the Bharti Electoral Trust, ITC Limited, Asianet TV Holding Pvt. Ltd., Ambuja Cement Ltd., Harmony Electoral Trust, Mahindra and Mahindra and Larsen and Toubro Ltd.

Only five regional parties have regularly filed their contribution reports from 2004-05 to 2010-11 to the EC. Eighteen regional parties have never submitted their contribution reports.

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