New Delhi: While political parties are required to submit details of those donating over Rs 20,000 in a financial year to them, an analysis by Association of Democratic Reforms has revealed that in many cases, such donations are being received without PAN details and address of donors. Incidentally, the BJP has been the overwhelming recipient of political donations, having received over Rs 915 crore (92.5%) out of the total donation of Rs 985 crore received by the six national parties in two fiscals – 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Political parties are required to furnish the name, address and PAN of the donor along with information about mode of payment and amount contributed by each donor to the Election Commission.
In a report released in January 2014, ADR had noted that between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the national parties received a total of Rs 378.89 crore in political donations. This constituted 87% of the total contribution from known sources.
In another report in August 2017, ADR mentioned that between 2012-13 and 2015-16, business houses had donated Rs 956.77 crore to the national parties. These funds had amounted to 89% of their total funding from known sources.
The latest report has analysed the contributions in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
BSP did not receive any donation over Rs 20,000
It stated that while the BJP, Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI, Nationalist Congress Party and All India Trinamool Congress were covered for the analysis, the BSP was left out. The party declared that it did not receive any voluntary contributions above Rs 20,000 during this period or earlier.
Business houses donated Rs 985.18 crore or nearly 93% of the total contributions received by these political parties from known sources. It said the donations from the corporate sector to national parties have increased significantly – by 160% – between the two periods for which data was evaluated (FY 2004-05 to 2011-12 and FY 2016-17 to 2017-18).
BJP got the bulk of corporate donations
Overall, the report said the six parties received Rs 1059.25 crore from voluntary contributions above Rs 20,000. The BJP received most of these donations, Rs 915.59 crore, from 1,731 corporate donors.
The Congress was a distant second, with Rs 55.36 crore received from 151 corporate donors. During the two-year period, the report said that the BJP and Congress’s voluntary contributions above Rs 20,000 from corporate or business houses were 94% and 81% respectively. On the other hand, the CPI received the lowest share of corporate donations, at just 2%.
The analysis also noted that between 2012-13 and 2017-18, donations from the corporate sector to national parties registered a 414% rise. During this period, it said, the BJP received the most donations, Rs 1,621.40 crore, constituting 83.49% of the total corporate donations.
Little known trusts donated hundreds of crores
Surprisingly, little known corporate entities have emerged as major donors to the political parties.
ADR said “Prudent/Satya Electoral Trust was the top donor to two of the national parties, between FY 2016-17 and 2017-18.” The trust made 46 donations in the two years, with its contribution standing at Rs 429.42 crore.
The BJP declared that it received Rs 405.52 crore in 33 donations from the trust, while the Congress submitted that it received Rs 23.90 crore in 13 donations.
The second highest corporate donor to the Congress and the BJP was the Bhadram Janhit Shalika Trust. In 10 donations, it contributed Rs 41 crore to these parties.
Nature of work of some large donors not known
ADR said out of the Rs 985.18 crore donated by the corporate sector to the national parties in the two years, Rs 22.59 crore came from the unsegregated category. These are companies whose details are not available online or whose nature of work is unclear.
The group also said the analysis revealed that electoral trusts were the biggest donors to the national parties, contributing Rs 488.42 crore in the two year period.
The real estate sector was the second highest overall contributor in FY 2016-17, contributing Rs 49.94 crore. In FY 2017-18, the manufacturing sector was the second highest overall contributor, donating Rs 74.74 crore to the national parties.
PAN, address, internet info of many donors not available
A crucial aspect flagged by ADR is that while submitting details about the donations to the Election Commission, the political parties did not fulfil the mandatory condition of disclosing the PAN details and address of the donors.
It said there were a total of 916 donations, through which national parties received Rs 120.14 crore, where the address details were not provided in the contribution form. Likewise, the national parties received Rs 2.59 crore through 76 donations for which the PAN details were not provided.
Interestingly, 98% of donations without PAN and address details went to the BJP.
The association said that the national parties also received Rs 22.59 crore in 347 donations from corporate entities which have no internet presence or whose nature of work is not known.
‘Make parties return funds for which disclosure is incomplete’
In view of these discrepancies, ADR has made a number of recommendations. It said the Supreme Court judgment of September 13, 2013 laid out that no part of a candidate’s affidavit should be left blank. “Similarly, no part of the Form 24A submitted by political parties providing details of donations above Rs 20,000, should be blank.”
ADR has demanded that all those donating Rs 20,000 or more should provide their PAN details, record date of donation and submitted in Form 24A. Parties who do not submit the donation statement to the ECI should be heavily penalised and their income should not remain tax exempt.
The organisation has also stated that if parties did not obtain the PAN or address details of corporate donors, the ECI should make the parties return the amount “to deter them from providing incomplete information”.
It also suggested that corporate donors should make details of their political contributions available in the public domain through their websites. The group also suggested that the Central Board of Direct Taxes should scrutinise annually the donations received by all national, regional and unrecognised parties to discourage donations from shell companies or illegal entities.