Times of India, August 27, 2022
In the last 17 years, between 2004 and 2021, eight national parties have collected over Rs 15,000 crore in small donations below Rs 20,000 each from unknown contributors, the identities of whom have not been disclosed and neither has the Election Commission nor the income tax authorities conducted any investigation on them.
According to a report prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental organisation working on election reforms, the combined income from unknown sources of Congress and NCP during this period stands at Rs 4,262 crore, all claimed from ‘sale of coupons’ with donors name not disclosed before the EC or the I-T department.
Such a huge amount of money coming to national parties where the source of funds and contributors are unverified and not investigated is a cause of concern. The I-T department is the agency that provides tax exemption to these parties after verifying the legitimacy of income and expenditure. The ADR report has raised serious questions on the colour of money funding elections in India.
More than 36% of the funds (received by parties) cannot be traced and are from ‘unknown’ sources,” the ADR said in its report. While these parties have been brought under the RTI Act in June 2013, they have still not complied with the decision.
“Full transparency is, unfortunately, not possible under the current laws,” it said. During the first year of the Covid pandemic in 2020-21, when the country came to a standstill and millions lost jobs overnight, these leading parties together collected Rs 690 crore as income from unknown sources, including Rs 325 crore through electoral bonds.
The contributors of electoral bonds are also not disclosed and (such income) treated as income from ‘unknown source’. Interestingly, 77% of the electoral bond money (Rs 250 crore) in 2020-21 went to 27 regional parties and only Rs 74 crore came to the eight parties — BJP, Congress, TMC, NCP, CPM, BSP, CPI and National People’s Party of Meghalaya.
The prominent among the 27 regional outfits are , TRS, YSR-Cong, AAP, BJD, DMK, JD(S), JD(U), AGP, AIADMK, AIFB, AIMIM, AIUDF, JMM and MNS. Congress declared Rs 179 crore as income from unknown sources during 2020-21, which is 42% of the total income of national parties from unknown sources (Rs 427 crore), and BJP Rs 101 crore.
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