Hindustan Times
HT Correspondent
New Delhi

The donations from unknown sources comprised more than half the funding received by eight national political parties

National political parties collected 2,172.23 crore, or 65% of their funding, from unknown sources in financial year 2021-2022, a majority of it received through anonymous electoral bonds, election watch body Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said in a report released on Saturday.

The donations from unknown sources comprised more than half the funding received by eight national political parties. Of 3,289.34 crore, 2,172.23 crore (over 65%) was income from unknown sources, most of which came from electoral bonds ( 1,811.94 crore or 83.414%).

“Known sources” are defined as donations above 20,000, whose donor details are available through contribution reports as submitted by national parties to the Election Commission. These include sale of assets, membership fees, bank interest, sale of publications, party levies and sale of moveable and immovable assets, old newspapers, membership fees, delegate fee, etc, whose details would be available in the books of accounts maintained by political parties.

The analysis was conducted on the basis of the parties’ income tax returns and donation statements filed with the Election Commission of India (ECI).

The national parties considered for the report included the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Congress (INC), All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), Community Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and National People’s Party (NPEP).

The BJP declared the largest chunk of donations from unknown sources. “During FY2021-22, BJP declared 1,161.0484 crore as income from unknown sources which is 53.45% of the total income of national parties from unknown sources ( 2,172.23 crore),” the report said.

The BJP’s share was 149.86 crore more than the aggregate of income from unknown sources declared by the other national parties, the report said.

The Congress declared 388.84 crore as income from unknown sources. The ADR said the combined income of the Congress and the NCP from the sale of coupons between FY2004-05 and FY2021-22 stood at 4,398.51 crore.

At present, political parties are not required to reveal the name of individuals or organisations giving less than Rs. 20,000, while donors using electoral bonds remain anonymous.

The electoral bond system was brought in by way of a money bill introducing amendments in the Finance Act and the Representation of Peoples Act. The scheme was first floated in 2017, implemented in 2018, and has since met with criticism for lacking transparency.

The bonds are sold four times a year, January, April, July and October, and allow political parties to accept money from donors whose identities are kept anonymous. The State Bank of India is the sole bank authorised by the government to sell and redeem these bonds.

Several petitions, including those by ADR, were filed in the top court and have remained under consideration since 2015, prior to the roll-out of the scheme.

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