Political parties in India have received funds to the tune of Rs 4,895.6 crore between 2004 and 2012, and the irony is that 75 per cent of these funds cannot be traced.
According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a non governmental organisation, 75 per cent of the total funds received cannot be traced as they from ‘unknown’ sources.
The report becomes very relevant in the light of recent events when the national political parties were brought under the Right to Information Act by a Central Information Commission ruling.
The ADR states in its report that parties obtained Rs 105.86 crore out of total Rs 4,895.6 crore as donations from electoral trusts. This would constitute just 2.16 per cent of the total income of political parties.
Total income of political parties from known donors (details of donors as available from contribution report submitted by parties to Election Commission) is Rs 435.85 crore, which is 8.90 per cent of the total income of the parties, the report states.
Total income of political parties from other known sources (e.g., sale of assets, membership fees, bank interest, sale of publications, party levy, etc.) is Rs 785.60 crores, or 16.05 per cent of the total income, the report adds.
Total income of political parties from unknown sources (income specified in the Income Tax Returns whose sources are unknown) is Rs 3,674.50 crores, which is 75.05 per cent of the total income of the parties.
The report also notes that the Congress has not declared its income from funds received at the party headquarters for 14 elections out of 31 analysed, including the Lok Sabha elections. The party’s funds declared at the party headquarters is Rs 278.77 crores (between 2008 and 2012).
Maywati-led Bahujan Samaj Party declared the maximum funds received during election period between 2008 and 2012 -- Rs 330.36 crores.
Funds received at the state unit
Congress received the maximum funds of Rs 754.72 crores within an average of 115 days (from date of announcement of elections to the date of completion of elections), the report points out.
The total income of Bharatiya Janata Party from funds received at the state units during the elections is Rs 445.39 crores where the party has declared the maximum income from the elections held in 2009 (Rs 169.56 crores) within 144 days, and the minimum income from the Bihar assembly elections held in 2010 (Rs 5.2 crores) within 80 days, the report notes.
90.38 per cent of the total funds received by the Congress at the party state headquarters between 2008 and 2012 was Rs 251.96 crores by cash and only 9.62 per cent of the funds, Rs 26.81 crores, by cheque.
83.78 per cent of Nationalist Congress Party’s total funds were by cash (Rs 14.93 crore) and a meager 16.22 per cent by cheque/demand draft (Rs 2.89 crores).
The ADR says that it recommends that full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the RTI.
Some countries where this is done include Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the United States of America and Japan. In none of these countries it is possible for 75 per cent of the source of funds to be unknown, but at present it is so in India, the report notes.
Image: A flag maker looks at the campaign flags of Congress and BJP at a shop in Ahmedabad
Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters