Hindustan Times
Anish Yande

The Congress lagged far behind as compared to parties such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received the highest number of donations through electoral trusts in 2021-22, amassing funds to the tune of 351.50 crore or 72.17 per cent of the total donations made to political parties, according to a report published by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). The Congress lagged far behind as compared to parties such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

“BJP received 351.50 cr or 72.17% of the total donations received by all political parties from Electoral Trusts. Telangana Rashtra Samiti (now known as Bharat Rashtra Samiti) received 40.00 crore or 8.21% of the total donations from all parties from all six Electoral Trusts,” the report said.

Electoral trusts are non-profit organisations formed for political parties to receive contributions from corporate entities and individuals in an orderly manner. The trusts aim at improving transparency in the usage of funds for election-related expenses. ADR, which advocates for strengthening governance and enhancing transparency, publishes annual reports on contributions through electoral trusts.

Eight other parties, including the SP, AAP, YSR-Congress, Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Punjab Lok Congress Party, Goa Forward Party, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) received a total of 95.56 cr collectively.

The leading contributor to the BJP is the Prudent Electoral Trust which donated 336.50 cr to the BJP, an increase as compared to 209 crore contributed in FY 2020-21. Meanwhile, AB General Electoral Trust and Samaj Electoral Trust donated 10 crore and 5 crore, respectively, of their total income to the BJP in FY 2021-22.

The Congress obtained 18.44 crore from electoral trusts, while the Samajwadi Party gained 27 crore. The AAP and the YSR-Congress received donations of 21.12 crore and 20 crore, respectively, as per the ADR report.

One of the leading parties in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal received 7 crore, while the Punjab Lok Congress Party obtained 1 crore. The Goa Forward Party and the DMK received 50 lakh each through electoral trusts.

Out of 89 corporate/business houses making contributions to the tune of 475.80 crore to electoral trusts in FY 2021-22, 62 corporates contributed 456.30 crore to Prudent Electoral Trusts. Meanwhile, two corporates provided 10 crore in donations to AB General Electoral Trust while three corporates contributed 5 crore to Samaj Electoral Trust.

Arcelor Mittal Nippon Steel India, the steel manufacturing joint venture, contributed the highest amount of 70 crore among all donors of the Electoral Trusts, followed closely by an affiliated firm, Arcelor Mittal Design and Engg Centre Pvt Ltd at 60 crore. Telecom major Bharti Airtel Limited contributed 51 crore to several trusts.

ADR’s analysis of electoral funds in the past year showed that out of all political parties, the BJP received 212.05 crore or 82.05 per cent of the total donations from electoral trusts. In 2021-22, the BJP’s share of donations from corporations fell by nearly 10 per cent as compared to FY 2020-21; the funds it received have surged by nearly 130 crore.

The ADR report also drew attention to the need for ensuring transparency in the donations via electoral trusts. The report said, “Details of donors to these 6 Electoral Trusts remain unknown, thereby leading to speculation on whether donations to these trusts were only a means of getting tax exemption or a way to convert black money stashed in tax havens to white money in India.”

To combat the alleged corruption through electoral trusts, ADR urged the disclosure of the details of donors to these electoral trusts. The organisation also advised the removal of the approvals granted to three electoral trusts, namely, Jai Hind, Upakriti, and People’s Electoral Trusts, which have never received any contributions since their registration.

Laying down additional measures to enhance transparency, the ADR report said, “Those Electoral Trusts, which have not responded to and complied with the guidelines circulated by the ECI should be heavily penalised as indicated in the notification issued by the ECI to the Trusts. All corporates should make details of their political contributions available in the public domain through their websites (in annual reports or in a dedicated page) for increasing transparency in political financing.”

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