In a pointer to the growing influence of business houses in Indian elections, corporate donations received by political parties in just four years — from 2012-13 to 2015-16 — was 2½ times the funds collected in the seven years between 2004-05 and 2011-12.
The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), which analysed details of all donations above Rs 20,000 to five national parties — BJP, Congress, NCP, CPI and CPM — found that corporate donations accounted for 89% of all known donations in these four years. Corporate houses had collectively donated Rs 956.77 crore from 2012-13 to 2015-16, as compared to Rs 378.89 crore (87% of all donations) over four years from 2004-05 to 2011-12.
ADR did not include the BSP in this analysis as the party has not disclosed any contributions above Rs 20,000.
To put this sharp increase in perspective, there were two Lok Sabha elections and 52 assembly polls held between 2004-05 and 2011-12 as opposed to just one parliamentary election and 24 assembly polls from 2012-13 to 2015-16.
The spike in corporate donations is accounted for largely by the BJP, which received Rs 705 crore from 2,987 donors. In the seven years between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the BJP had received Rs 192 crore.
ADR’s latest report showed the Congress at a distant second with Rs 198 crore from 167 donors with the NCP next at Rs 50.73 crore from business houses. The CPI and the CPM have the lowest corporate donations at Rs 18 lakh and 1.89 crore respectively.
Satya Electoral Trust was the biggest corporate donor for the BJP with Rs 193.62 crore. Satya Electoral Trust is an independent trust which has received contributions from Hero MotoCorp, Jubilant Foodworks, DLF, JK Tyres and Indiabulls Housing Finance in the past. Satya Electoral Trust was also the highest donor to the Congress and the NCP.
General Electoral Trust of the Aditya Birla Group was the second largest corporate donor to the BJP with over Rs 70 crore. Lodha Constructions with Rs 16 crore, Modern Road Makers Pvt Ltd with Rs 15.80 crore and Sterlite Industries India with Rs 15 crore were among the top five corporate donors to the BJP.
A total 1,933 donations, through which parties received Rs 384 crore, did not have PAN details. Also, Rs 355 crore received from 1,546 donations did not have complete address details. According to the ADR report, out of donations with both PAN and address details missing, 99 per cent went to the BJP.
“At a time when the government is insisting on PAN and Aadhaar details for almost all large financial transactions, it’s interesting to find that the largest chunk of donations without PAN details have been received by the ruling party. This shows that there is one law for you and me and another for the political parties,” said Prof Trilochan Sastry, ADR founder.
Sastry, along with his colleague Jagdeep Chhokar, also criticised the government’s move to introduce electoral bonds, whose anonymity clause would affect transparency of political funding.