Roshneesh Kmaneck

The total income of seven political parties from unknown sources was Rs 2,512.98 crore in 2018-19, which is 67 per cent of total income of parties and electoral bonds alone comprised 78 per cent of this income, the Association of Democratic Reforms has said.

In a press release, the ADR has said that the total income of seven national political parties in 2018-19 was Rs 3,749.37 crore.

"Total income of political parties from unknown sources (income specified in the IT returns whose sources are unknown) was Rs 2,512.98 crore, which is 67 per cent of the total income of the parties. Out of Rs 2,512.98 crore as income from unknown sources, the share of income from electoral bonds is Rs 1960.68 crore or 78 per cent," the ADR release said.

It said that the total income of political parties from known donors was Rs 951.66 crore, which is 25.38 per cent of the total income of the parties.

Total income of political parties from other known sources such as the sale of assets, membership fees, bank interest, sale of publications, party levy was Rs 284.73 crore or 7.59 per cent of total income.

"During 2018-19, the Bharatiya Janata Party declared Rs 1,612.04 cr as income from unknown sources, which is 64 per cent of the total income of national parties from unknown sources (Rs 2,512.98 crore). This income of BJP forms more than 1.5 times more the aggregate of income from unknown sources declared by the other five national parties (Rs 900.94 crore)," the release said.

It said the Congress declared Rs 728.88 crore as income from unknown sources, which is 29 per cent of the total income of national parties from unknown sources.

The party said that 'schedules' or 'annexures' were not available for the CPM for 2017-18.

The national political parties were brought under the RTI Act by the CIC ruling in June 2013 but "they have still not complied with the decision," the ADR said.

"Full transparency is unfortunately not possible under the current laws and it is only the RTI that can keep citizens informed," added the ADR.

It said that between 2004-05 and 2018-19, national parties collected Rs 11,234.12 crore from unknown sources.

It said the combined income of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party from the sale of coupons between 2004-05 and 2018-19 stands at Rs 3902.63 crore.

According to donations reports (containing details of donations above Rs 20,000) of 2018-19, Rs 71.44 lakh was given to the national parties by cash.

The ADR said that for its analysis, known sources have been defined as donations above Rs 20,000, whose donor details are available through contributions report as submitted by national parties to the Election Commission.

The unknown sources are income declared in the I-T returns but without giving a source of income for donations below Rs 20,000.

The ADR considered seven national parties - BJP, Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist, NCP, Bahujan Samaj Party and Communist Party of India -- for its analysis.

However, BSP declared that it did not receive any funds from voluntary contributions (above or below Rs 20,000)/sale of coupons/electoral bonds or unknown sources of income).

The release said that since a very large percentage of the income of political parties cannot be traced to the original donor, full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the RTI.

"Some countries where this is done include Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the US, and Japan. In none of these countries is it possible for more than 67 per cent of the source of funds to be unknown, but at present, it is so in India," it said.

Noting that the poll panel has recommended that tax exemption be awarded only to those political parties which contest and win seats in the Lok Sabha or assembly elections and that the details of all donors who donate above Rs 2,000 be declared in public domain, the ADR said it supports the ECI for its strong stand to enforce reforms in funding of political parties and hopes that these reforms are proactively taken up by the government for implementation.

It said that the scrutiny of financial documents submitted by the political parties should be conducted annually by a body approved by the CAG and the ECI so as to enhance transparency and accountability of political parties with respect to their funding.

"The national and regional political parties must provide all information under the Right to Information Act. This will only strengthen political parties, elections, and democracy. However, RTI or not, political parties should voluntarily account for every rupee that they get or spend," the release said.
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