17 February 2019 01:34 PM



Only 9% Of Declared Income of India’s National Parties Comes From Sources Known To The Public

The Party's on

NEW DELHI: The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) on August 7 released a report detailing the donations declared by regional political parties to the Election Commission (EC) for the 2016-17 financial year.

Of the 48 parties considered in the report, 16 including the People’s Democratic Party and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen have yet to submit their declarations to the EC. A further six claim to have received no contributions at all in the past year; these include the National Conference and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, parties must declare all contributions larger than Rs 20,000 to the public in order to qualify for a complete tax exemption on their income.

According to the report the remaining parties declared a total of Rs 91 crore in contributions. The most fortunate were the Shiv Sena (Rs 26 cr), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP – Rs 25 cr) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD – Rs 15 cr) which together account for nearly three-quarters of the total.

Most of the parties that did submit declarations report a significant decline in their fortunes relative to the prior financial year. These include the Shiv Sena (–70%), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (–99%), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (–87%) and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal–United (–28%).

AAP was the only one of these parties to declare donations from outside India. These came from 27 countries, led by Canada, the United States and the UAE, and amount to Rs 8.8 crore or a third of the total netted by the party, which also received cash contributions from 17 Indian states.

The largest contributions to AAP include those from TDI Infratech (Rs 25 lakh), Allegro Corporate Finance Advisors (Rs 16 lakh), Allegro Capital (Rs 9 lakh), and the Satya Electoral Trust (Rs 1 cr), all registered in Delhi.On the whole the party reported a fourfold increase in contributions over the previous year.

According to the ADR-affiliated website myneta.info, the Satya Electoral Trust was also among the most generous donors to the SAD (Rs 9 cr), the Samajwadi Party (Rs 6.5 cr), the Indian National Congress (Rs 13.9 cr) and above all the Bharatiya Janata Party (Rs 241.2 cr).

Electoral trusts funded by private corporations allow them to channel contributions to political parties in quasi-anonymity. It is difficult enough to determine who is funding whom from disclosures made by parties to the EC; and the Finance Bill passed without discussion by the Lok Sabha earlier this year will make independent determinations even more difficult.

The enabling scheme known as electoral bonds, described by sometime Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as “substantially cleansing the system”, will help ensure to the contrary that a party’s source of funding remains unknown to all but the donor, the interested government, and perhaps the recipient.

To this end the ADR in its report urges political parties to provide information about their finances in response to Right to Information requests. It also recommends that if disclosures made to the EC are late or incomplete, the erring party should be taxed on all its income.

In an era of mysteriously expensive elections, no electoral trusts are to be found among the top donors to either the Communist Party of India or the Communist Party of India (Marxist). According to myneta.info the largest contributions to the CPI came from its own state councils, topped by Tamil Nadu at Rs 12.7 lakh, and its own members of parliament D. Raja (Rs 16 lakh) and C.N. Jayadevan (Rs 12 lakh). The CPI(M) declares a windfall of Rs 2.5 crore from the Central Organisation of Tamilnadu Electricity Employees, not to mention Sitaram Yechury (Rs 4.8 lakh) and Mohammed Salim (Rs 4.5 lakh).

If politics is to derive less from donors and more from the constituents of the state, we must consider the ADR’s reminder that only 9% of the total declared income of India’s national parties is from sources known to the public.

Meanwhile, the party’s on.