Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received 89.22% of the total donations for Financial Year (FY) 2016-17 from electoral trusts, according to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) of the contribution report of the electoral trusts to the Election Commission of India.
BJP received donations of ₹290.22 crore out of the total corporate donations of ₹325.27 crore during 2016-17 made to all political parties.
The other nine political parties received overall donations of ₹35.05 crore. The party with the second largest donations was the Indian National Congress (INC), having received ₹16.5 crore. At number three was the Shiromani Akali Dal, which received donations of ₹9 crore, followed by the Samajwadi Party, which received donations of ₹6 crore.
The other six political parties which received donations during the financial year were the Aam Aadmi Party, Shiv Sena, All India Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party and Jammu and Kashmir National Conference.
A press release by the ADR on Jan 29 states that only 14 of the 21 electoral trusts registered with the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) submitted their contribution details to the Election Commission of India for 2016-17. Out of them, only six declared to have received any donations.
According to ADR, out of the total income of regional and national political parties between 2004-05 and 2014-15, 69% of it came from ‘unknown sources’.
ADR has calculated the donations received by the political parties based on the six electoral trusts which declared to have received donations. The six electoral trusts are the Prudent Electoral Trust, Janta Nirvachak Electoral Trust, New Democratic Electoral Trust, Samaj Electoral Trust, Paribartan Electoral Trust and Triumph Electoral Trust.
Prudent Electoral Trust received the maximum contributions of ₹283.73 crore and donated ₹252.22 crore to BJP – 88.90% of the total. The electoral trusts are required to give 95% of their total income to political parties in a financial year.
The maximum donation of ₹28 crore to any of the electoral trusts was made by DLF Limited.
This is not the only year in which the BJP has managed to secure the maximum number of donations through electoral trusts. The funding they received for 2016-17 is part of a pattern where the BJP has on four successive financial years managed to secure the maximum donations through the trusts. The BJP has received the maximum number of donations through electoral trusts from 2013-14 to 2016-17. They have received overall donations of ₹488.94 crore. The Congress has received the second highest donations over a period of four financial years. It received ₹86.658 crore. The BJP and the INC are the only two political parties which have received donations through electoral trusts every financial year.
Stating that contribution to electoral trusts requires greater transparency, ADR has earlier highlighted how lack of information about donor funding to electoral trusts leads to speculation about the misuse of donations to get tax exemptions or the system being used to convert black money stashed in tax havens to white money in the country.
While this system of donating money to political parties has come under a lot of criticism for not being transparent enough, the new system of ‘electoral bonds’ which has now made it possible for the donor to hide their identity has come under even more scrutiny. An ‘electoral bond’ can be bought and deposited in a political party’s account, without the need to reveal the donor’s identity.
Lakshmi Sriram of ADR told the Hindustan Times, “It’s introducing additional opacity in the finances of political parties. It’s really bad.”