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Tatas, Birlas make largest political donations in India

August 28, 2012 15:02 IST

The National Election Watch has said that several companies make political donations, which makes it necessary to probe if the donations have led to any favours. Vicky Nanjappa reports.  

The multi-crore coal scam, which has caused a furore in Parliament and even threatens Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also thrown light on donations made by top companies to political parties.  

A total of 25 companies have been named in the Comptroller and Auditor General report. Hindalco Industries -- the flagship subsidiary of the Aditya Birla Group -- is one of the companies on that list. Another company on that list is Tata Power, which made political donations through its electoral trust.

Hindalco Industries is one of the biggest donors to political parties through its general electoral trust. Interestingly, the contribution to political parties by the Aditya Birla Group increased to Rs 30.5 crore in 2009-2010.

In 2007-08, the general electoral trust donated Rs 5 crore to the Bharatiya Janata Party. It was in 2009-2010, that the donation from this trust increased. During this period the general electoral trust donated Rs 13.95 crore to the Congress while Rs 16.60 crore was given to the BJP.

The other major donor to political parties is the electoral trust established by the Tatas, which has donated Rs 9.79 crore. The Congress was given Rs 5.64 crore while the BJP got Rs 4.14 crore. The CAG on the coal scam had named Tata Power as one of the beneficiaries in the coal scam.

Donating money to political parties first started in Germany. In India, it was first adopted by the Tatas, who floated their electoral trust in 1996. It was followed up by the Birlas a few years later. Since then money from these companies have been routed through this trust, as they felt this was a good way to participate in the electoral process.

The general electoral trust funds parties and even independent candidates only in constituencies where the company or its group is located.

The big question is whether these companies have benefitted from these donations.

The National Election Watch, which has gone through a tedious process to get the names of these firms, says that a proper investigation into the matter is required. However, it admits that it is difficult to pinpoint if these donations have led to any favours.

Anil Bhariwal, the convenor of the National Election Watch, says that they have found that many companies and large corporations have been funding political parties irrespective of which party is in power. "We feel that only smaller contributions are shown on paper while the bigger amounts are not declared. I am not sure what we can draw out of this. One needs to look into this and also find out whether these contributions are leading to any favours," says Bhariwal.

The first time the National Election Watch sought details of political donations, both the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist stated that they were not public authorities defined under the Right to Information Act and hence were not compelled to reveal the details. The Nationalist Congress Party on the other hand told them it did not have people to compile data, while the Bharatiya Janata party and the Bahujan Samaj Party failed to respond to the request, which prompted them to approach the Chief Information Commissioner and argue their case.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore