Tax rebates: Congress tops list with Rs 300 cr exemption
A report prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms states that the total tax exemptions received by six national parties during financial years 2006 to 2009 is Rs 510.02 crore. Vicky Nanjappa reports
The Indian National Congress received a tax exemption of Rs 300.92 crore between 2006 and 2009, while the Bharatiya Janata Party got an exemption of Rs 141.25 crore on its income. The free airtime that the Congress got on Doordarshan and All India Radio during the elections was worth Rs 8.42 crore, while for the BJP it was Rs 6.38 crore.
All political parties in India have been claiming tax exemptions on 100 per cent of their incomes as per the provisions of Section 13 A of the Income Tax Act. A report prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms states that the total tax exemptions received by six national parties during three financial years beginning 2006 to 2009 is Rs 510.02 crore.
The tax rebates enjoyed by four other national political parties during the same time period are as follows;
Bahujan Samaj Party: Rs 39.84 crore, Communist Party of India (Marxist): Rs 18.13 crore, CPI: Rs 0.24 crore, Nationalist Congress Party: Rs 9.64 crore.
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Free airtime on Doordarshan and AIR during elections
All political parties are provided free airtime on Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) for canvassing during elections. Based on the data received under RTI the report calculates the revenue forgone by DD and AIR during the Lok Sabha 2009 elections and the elections in the five states that were held during Jan-Mar 2012.
DD and AIR have different commercial rates for prime time and non prime time telecast and broadcast. The report conservatively calculates the revenue forgone by DD and AIR because the government used the non-prime time commercial rates. The actual revenue forgone by the Prasar Bharti would have been higher.
The free airtime provided to INC during the above mentioned two sets of elections is Rs 8.42 crore, while the BJP got airtime worth Rs 6.38 crore. For other political parties the corresponding figures are;
BSP: Rs 3.96 crore, CPI(M): Rs 2.77 crore, CPI: Rs 2.62 crore and NCP: Rs 2.89 crore.
State funded electoral rolls provided to political parties during elections:
Under the provisions of rules 11 and 12 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, two copies of the electoral roll -- one printed copy and another in CD are supplied to recognised political parties, free of cost, after draft and final publications.
Normally the government spends only a trivial amount on the free supply of electoral rolls. However, according to the report a significant amount of money was spent. ADR filed RTIs in various states in order to ascertain the cost per voter roll during the 2009 elections. Samples from 10 constituencies, varying from small to large constituencies, were also collected.
One assumption was that political parties received copies of electoral rolls only for places where they actually fielded their candidates. Based on ADR's calculations, the total amount spent by the government, only during the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, in providing electoral rolls to the six national political parties stands at Rs 8.9 crore.
The maximum amount was spent on Bahujan Samaj Party i.e. Rs 2.82 crore, because it fielded the maximum number of candidates (500) during the LS elections of 2009. The corresponding figures for other national political parties are as follows -- INC: Rs 2.48 crore (440 candidates), BJP: Rs 2.45 crore (433 candidates), CPM: Rs 0.46 crore (82 candidates), CPI: Rs 0.31 crore (56 candidates) and NCP: Rs 0.38 crore (68 candidates).
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State funding in the form of government land, offices
As per the ministry of urban development there is a well-defined policy for allotment of land to political parties. Political parties, accordingly, have been allotted large sized plots of lands in Delhi.
ADR attempted to value these plots of land using highly conservative rate taken from category 'B' of Delhi Circle Rates of November 2011. The real market rates are substantially higher than this category rate taken by ADR.
INC has been allotted maximum land area of 18,737 sq m followed by BJP that possesses 10,410.8 sq m of land. The corresponding area figures of other national political parties are as follows -- CPM: 3,732 sq m, CPI: 1,500 sq m, NCP: 1,000 sq m and BSP: 2,000 sq m.
ADR's calculations of these plots based on the above mentioned highly conservative rate show that the value of land held by INC stands at Rs 231 crore and the worth of land held by BJP is Rs 117.35 crore. The values of land possessed by other parties are as follows; CPI(M): Rs 50.75 crore, CPI: Rs 16.91 crore, NCP: Rs 13.6 crore and BSP: Rs 27.20 crore.
The cumulative value of the land that is in possession of these six national parties stands at Rs 456.91 crore. It is quite evident from these arguments that political parties receive substantial funding from government and hence they should be declared as public authorities in order to bring them under the purview of the RTI.
Image: BJP rally
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters