For the third year in a row, India’s largest two national parties—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress—have failed to report their annual income to the Election Commission on time, a report from electoral watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) showed.

The last day to submit income details for the previous year was 31 October.

Among the five others that did report on time, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) showed the highest income for 2016-17: Rs173.58 crore.

On average, BJP and the Congress furnished the mandatory information 170 and 200 days after the deadline, respectively, in previous years, ADR reported.

A major chunk of the BSP’s reported income has been kept in reserves, with the party spending only 30% of the money. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) claimed the second highest income, clocking Rs100.25 crore, while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) came in third with an income of Rs17.23 crore.

The NCP, however, reported expenditure of Rs24.96 crore. The All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) also reported expenditure far in excess of its income, with Rs24.26 crore of spending as against Rs6.39 crore of income.

The ADR flagged such repeated instances of parties spending more money than what they claim as income and recommended that political parties which don’t follow accepted accounting norms should be scrutinised by the income tax department.

While the CPI(M) spent most of its money on administrative and general expenses, parties such as the BSP, AITC (All India Trinamool Congress) and NCP spent the bulk of their cash on election-related expenses.

All parties claimed to have raised their money through a combination of donations, membership fees/subscriptions, and issue of coupons or sales of publications. Nearly half of the BSP’s income was under the head of donations, which rarely leave a trail since donations below Rs20,000 are exempt from disclosure.

Citing a 2017 amendment to the Finance Bill, the ADR report also mentions that parties are mandated under law to report their income details on time and those which fail to comply must be derecognised.

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