I-T returns data show 83% of the Congress' and 65% of the BJP's total income was from anonymous benefactors.
N Sundaresha Subramanian reports.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, which are fighting in Parliament over the right way to tackle black money, need to start at home.
These two national parties accounted for a lion's share of the thousands of crores of unaccounted money received by the political world over the past 10 years.
An analysis of the income-tax returns data for the past 10 years provided by the Association of Democratic Reforms showed that between 2005 and 2015, these two parties collected a total of Rs 5,450 crore (Rs 54.5 billion) from 'unknown sources.'
The Congress leads the list of six national parties with Rs 3,323 crore (Rs 33.23 billion) or 83 per cent of its total income from these anonymous benefactors during this period.
For the BJP, the figure was lower at Rs 2,125 crore (Rs 21.25 billion) or 65 per cent.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist, whose leader Sitaram Yechury made a spirited speech in Parliament on the black money issue and demonetisation on Wednesday, came next with Rs 471 crore (Rs 4.71 billion) from such unknown sources.
Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party earned Rs 448 crore (Rs 4.48 billion) and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party got Rs 243 crore (Rs 2.43 billion) on these accounts.
The contribution statements, submitted by the political parties declaring the names and other details of donors who contribute above Rs 20,000, are the only known source.
Provisions of the Income Tax Act require that payments exceeding Rs 20,000 need to be made through the banking channels, facilitating audit trails.
However, the parties circumvent this by receiving payments in numerous transactions of lower denomination.
There is a lingering suspicion that bulk of this could be unaccounted income that has evaded taxes or, in other words, 'black money.'
For example, the BSP has declared that the party did not receive any donations above Rs 20,000 in the past 11 financial years.
Trilochan Sastry, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore and founder member of ADR, said the parties were evading the Right to Information Act, despite a ruling by the Central Information Commission, basically because of this money problem.
"They have not revealed the source of this money. They have to reveal where they got this money from. They have to put their own house in order first," Sastry said.
The unknown sources include income declared in the I-T returns but without giving source of income for donations below Rs 20,000.
Such unknown sources include 'sale of coupons,' 'Aajiwan Sahayog Nidhi,' 'relief fund,' 'miscellaneous income,' 'voluntary contributions,' 'contribution from meetings/morchas,' etc.
The details of donors of such voluntary contributions are not available in the public domain.
For the Congress, bulk of the unknown income came from 'collection from sale of coupons.'
It sold Rs 2,941 crore (Rs 29.41 billion) worth coupons in these years, while for the BJP, small voluntary contributions swelled to a corpus of Rs 1,947 crore (Rs 19.47 billion).
The NCP also got most of its income from coupons.
The Communist Party of India had the least income from unknown sources at Rs 23 lakh (Rs 2.3 million).
The following year, the gap expanded with the former earning Rs 970 crore against Rs 593 crore clocked by the grand old party.
The Congress has the highest total income of Rs 3,982 crore (Rs 39.82 billion) between 2004-2005 and 2014-2015, accounting for 42.92 per cent of the total income of the six national parties (Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI).
The BJP has the second highest income of Rs 3,272 crore (Rs 32.72 billion), which is 35.27 per cent of the total income.
The CPI-M declared the third-highest income of Rs 832.99 crore (Rs 8.32 billion), which is 9.62 per cent of the total income of the six national parties.
This might change fast as in the past two financial years, which coincided with its ascent to power at the Centre and some key states, the BJP has been reporting higher income than the Congress.
In FY13-14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party earned Rs 673 crore (Rs 6.73 billion) against Rs 598 crore (Rs 5.98 billion) for the Congress.
In the following year, the gap expanded with the BJP earning Rs 970 crore (Rs 9.7 billion) against Rs 593 crore (Rs 5.93 billion) clocked by the grand old party.