New Delhi

The handling of black money amassed by Indians, both in India and abroad, has taken the central stage ever since theNarendra Modi government assumed power at the Centre, something which the UPA government too promised and failed before. A window offered by the NDA government to blackmoney hoarders to come clean on their doings expires on 30 September. There is no clarity yet how successful the scheme has been.

The larger point here is that, it is even more critical now to address the issue of non-transparent financial transactions of political parities so that politicians can claim the credibility and integrity to point fingers at the wrongdoers involved in illegal transactions.

As of now, the political parties questioning black money, including the ruling BJP, cannot claim the credibility to point fingers at those with ill-gotten wealth since many of their own financial transactions are dubious in nature.

To do an analysis, let’s take a look at the 9 September report released by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), which collates data on political funding. The report throws some interesting insights. There is a notable difference in the declarations made by political parties and their MPs on the lumpsum amounts granted and received as part of election expenditure during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. The analysis is made based on the expenditure reports submitted by the parties and the MPs from the date of announcement of elections to the date of completion of elections.

Out of 342 MPs from national parties, a total of Rs 75.58 crore was declared by 263 MPs as received from their parties whereas the national parties have declared that Rs 55.18 crores was given to only 176 MPs. How would one explain this difference? Who gave the non-declared sum by political parties to the politicians?

The report, for instance, cites that one MP from the BJP, Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah, had declared that she had received no lumpsum amount from her party whereas her party (BJP) itself declared that a total of Rs 15 lakhs was given to her for Lok Sabha elections. Where did the money go? On the other hand, a total of Rs 17.09 crores were declared as received by 88 MPs - 70 MPs from the BJP, 11 from the Congress, five from the CPI(M) and one each from the NCP and CPI. But their names are missing from the list of candidates to whom lumpsum amount was given by their parties.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Out of 160 MPs to whom the BJP said it had given some lump sum amount, only 106 declared the same amount while 35 declared an amount larger than what the party said it had given. According to the commission’s guidelines, any lump sum amounts to their candidates should do so “... through crossed account payee cheque or draft or through bank account transfer and not in cash”.

One should presume that such mismatches are the result of MPs not following the Election Commission rules on money transactions.

Mysterious funding sources

Financial transactions between parties and their MPs in the name of election is just one side of the entire problem.

The funding sources are still largely a mystery. “Details of the donors such as their names, companies, address and the individual contribution are unavailable for public scrutiny. Hence, a format similar to the donations report, submitted to the ECI (Election commission of India) on an annual basis, has to be prescribed so as to bring in more transparency in the functioning of the political parties especially during elections,” the ADR report said.

At present, 75 percent of the source of the funds to political parties is unknown. Remember, India is probably among the very few countries, where political funding is not transparent. In most other countries — Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the US and Japan - the complete details of the donors to political parties are publicly available.

According to an earlier ADR report, for the period 2013-14, a total of Rs 60.78 crores (36 percent) was declared as donations by the BJP from donors whose addresses were not declared. Such contributions were made through 923 donations without providing the details of addresses of the donors.

Due to lack of complete information about the donors, the state from which the donations were made and the details of their business houses could not be verified. As per the 2013-14 report, the BJP received total donations of Rs 171 crore in that year, the Congress received Rs 59 crore, the NCP Rs 14 crore, the CPI about Rs 1.22 crore and the CPM Rs 2.09 core.

“There is ambiguity in cash donations from 17 donors declared by the BJP which amounted to Rs 24.77 lakhs in fiscal year 2013-14. The party has not included any remarks though it is part of the prescribed format of the ECI. Thus, there is a need for clarity in large amounts of cash donations by individuals/ business houses,” the report had said.

The amounts mentioned in these reports are nowhere near the amount of black money rumoured to have stashed in foreign and domestic soils, but the question is about what one preaches and what he practices. When the very fundamentals of the questioning authority are flawed, how can the same party question the ill-gotten wealth of others?

It is even more critical now for the BJP, which promises to wage a war against black money hoarders, to initiate the cleansing process in the political system and, thus, gain the much-needed credibility.

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