THE INDIAN National Congress received approximately Rs 20 crore in donations from the ITC Limited and its subsidiary companies between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, making it one of the most prominent corporate donors to the grand old party the last financial year.

The latest contribution report for 2019-20 shared by the Congress with the Election Commission (EC) shows that the ITC donated roughly Rs 13 crore. Its subsidiaries ITC Infotech and Russell Credit Limited gave Rs 4 crore and Rs 1.4 crore, respectively.

However, Electoral Trusts continue to remain Congress’s biggest donors. Prudent Electoral Trust (chiefly backed by Bharti Airtel group and DLF ) and Jankalyan Electoral Trust contributed roughly Rs 30 crore and Rs 25 crore.

An Electoral Trust is a Section 25 Company that receives voluntary contributions, mainly from corporate houses, and distributes them to political parties. It offers donors anonymity while making a political contribution. Hence, the ITC is the single largest (identifiable) corporate donor of the Congress party in 2019-20.

In 2018-19, ITC and ITC Infotech gave Rs 23 crore to BJP.

A political party’s contribution report carries only donations above Rs 20,000 made by individuals, companies, electoral trusts, and associations. The Congress has declared to have received Rs 139 crore in the form of donations above Rs 20,000. It is mandatory that the report, which has details of the donor’s name, address, PAN number, mode of payment, and the donation date, is filed with the EC every year by September 30. The poll panel then subsequently places these contribution statements in the public domain.

To date, the EC has shared the donation reports for 2019-20 filed by NCP, BSP, and the Congress. While the BSP has once again declared nil donations above Rs 20,000, the NCP received almost Rs 60 crore. Reports of BJP, TMC, CPI, and CPM are not in the public domain yet.

The BJP has been the biggest beneficiary of corporate donors for the last few years. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, corporations and business houses gave Rs 876.10 crore to five national parties in 2018-19. The biggest share of over Rs 698 crore went to the BJP. On the other hand, big companies and corporations have been largely missing from the donor’s list of the Congress party. For instance, ITC Limited, as per Congress’s contribution reports, has not donated directly to the party in the last two years.

Aside from the ITC, the other corporate houses that stand out in terms of their contribution in 2019-20 are HEG Ltd (Rs 3.5 crore approx), Gwalior Alcobrew from Madhya Pradesh (Rs 5 crore approx) and BG Shirke Construction Ltd (Rs 4 crore).

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