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For greater transparency, corporates should put details of political contributions on websites: ADR


Of the 18 electoral trusts registered with the Central Board of Direct Taxes, corporate donations worth Rs 47.50 crore via only two trusts -- Satya and Samaj --went to three political parties in 2015-16, with over 90 per cent of funds going to the BJP alone, followed by the Congress and Janata Dal (United).

As per an analysis of the submissions by electoral trusts to the Election Commission by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), in 2015-16, Satya Electoral Trust donated 95.74 per cent or Rs 45 crore to BJP, while Samaj Electoral Trust donated 39.68 per cent or Rs 1 crore of its total income to BJP.

In fact, out of the 18 registered trusts, only Satya (Rs 47.12 crore) and Samaj (Rs 2.52 crore) declared having received donations during 2015-16. Twelve trusts said they did not receive any donations during the year, while the rest did not submit details of donations.

Calling for greater transparency in contributions to electoral trusts, ADR said details of donors to some of the electoral trusts remain unknown thereby leading to speculation on whether the donations were only a means of getting tax exemption or a way to convert black money stashed in tax havens to white money in India.

In 2015-16, the key donors to Satya Electoral Trust were JSW Steel Ltd, which contributed Rs 25 crore, followed by Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Torrent Power Ltd, each donating Rs 10 crore.

Rajasthan-based Sutlej Textiles & Industries Ltd contributed Rs 1 crore to Samaj Electoral Trust followed by Sil Investments Ltd which donated Rs 75 lakh.

While Satya Electoral Trust made contributions only to BJP (Rs 45 crore) and INC (Rs 2 crore,), Samaj gave Rs 1.5 crore to JD(U) and Rs 1 crore to BJP.

Interestingly, corporate donations had shot up to Rs 177.40 crore during 2014-15 when the Lok Sabha elections were held, with Satya Electoral Trust being the biggest donor with contributions from Bharti Infratel, Bharti Crescent, Bharti Airtel, DLF Assets, DLF Cybercity, JK Laksmi Cement, JK Tyre, Hero Motocorp, Jubilant Food, GMMCO Ltd, Orient Cement, India Bulls among others.

Going by the submissions made by these trusts, in 2013-14, total donations to political parties stood at Rs 85.37 crore, which dipped to Rs 47.50 crore in 2015-16 afer zooming to Rs 177 crore in 2014-15.

Overall, between 2013-14 and 2015-16, six registered electoral trusts comprising top corporates donated Rs 312.27 crore to key political parties, of which only two trusts (Satya and Samaj) donated more than once.

As per the rules formulated by the Central government, electoral trusts are required to donate 95 per cent of their total income to registered political parties in a financial year.

“The names of Electoral Trusts, currently, do not indicate the name of the company/ group of companies which set up the trusts,” said ADR, calling for greater transparency by including the name of the parent company in the name of the Electoral Trust.

ADR also demanded that corporates should make details of their political contributions available in public domain through their websites (in annual reports or in a dedicated page) for increasing transparency in political financing.

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