At a time when the political class has been facing criticism from civil society activists on the issue of fighting corruption,two NGOs promoting electoral reforms have revealed that political parties multiplied their income steadily in the last seven years despite the economic slowdown,with the ruling Congress grossing Rs 2,008 crore since it came to power at the Centre in 2004 while the BJP though a distant second got Rs 994 crore.
Parties like the BSP and SP also did well Mayawatis party raked in Rs 484 crore and Mulayam Singh Yadavs party got Rs 279 crore. The CPI(M),otherwise known as a party of proletariats,was not too far behind the BSP,grossing Rs 417 crore in seven years.
Collections by parties increased substantially before the onset of elections,both at the states as well as Centre. The BSP,interestingly,is the only party which has declared that all its donations received were under Rs 20,000.
Corporate houses were major contributors and some like the Aditya Birla Group gave donations to both Congress (Rs 36.4 crore) and BJP (Rs 26 crore) through the General Electoral Trust (GET) that it has set up. The other major donors to the Congress were Torrent Power Limited (Rs 14.15 crore),Bharti Electoral Trust of Airtel (Rs 11 crore),Tatas Electoral Trust (Rs 9 crore),Sterlite Industries (Rs 6 crore),ITC (Rs 5 crore),Adani Enterprises,Jindal Steel and Videocon Appliances.
The BJP,on the other hand,benefited from donations from GET (Rs 26 crore),Torrent Power Limited (Rs 13 crore),and Public and Political Awareness Centre (Rs 9.5 crore) which the NGOs claimed belongs to Vedanta.
Asianet TV holdings,interestingly,gave Rs 10 crore to BJP and Rs 2.5 crore to Congress in the past seven years.
To obtain the information,the two NGOs,Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch,relied on IT returns of 23 parties for the period of 2004 to 2011,obtained through the RTI Act from the Election Commission. Saying that donations and voluntary contributions seemed to be the major source of income for most parties,the two NGOs also demanded more transparency in the functioning of political parties as well as that of the electoral trusts.
A 2008 investigation by The Indian Express into one of the donors antecedents Akik Education Centre (P) Ltd had suggested that it was a front operation. Akik,which has donated over Rs 2 crore to the BJP through cheques,has listed a Shahdara address in East Delhi but is not linked to any activity connected with education.
A significant percentage of the Congresss income was received mostly through selling of coupons,with the amount from donations pegged at 14.42 per cent. On the other hand,the BJPs income mostly came through donations from corporate houses and trusts owned by major firms,including the London-listed Vedanta. Parties like the DMK received lakhs of rupees as donation from its own partymen.
There was also a huge difference between the two Left parties,CPI(M) and CPI. A major part of the Rs 417 crore income of the CPI(M) was in the form of contributions from individuals giving less than Rs 20,000 each. The CPI,however,earned only Rs 6.7 crore in the last seven years.
The NGOs said 18 regional or state parties,including the National Conference,Trinamool Congress and INLD,have not filed their contribution reports to the Election Commission since 2004.