Times of India
Pradeep Thakur, TNN
New Delhi

NEW DELHI: Contrary to CPM general secretary Prakash Karat's assertions, the party of the proletariat is in the same bracket as the Congress and the BJP when it comes to accepting corporate funds.

Information compiled by Election Commissionreveal that CPM has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of corporate donations, next only to Congress, BJP and BSP. In fact, CPM managed to rake in more than the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP): two outfits often seen to be sensitive to corporate interests.

The data the party shared with the Election Commission shows that it mopped up more than Rs 335 crore between 2007-08 and 2011-12. While the Samajwadi Party made only Rs 200 crore during this period, NCP was far behind at Rs 140 crore.

Karat had recently blamed corporate donations to its bourgeois rivals for the loss of CPM's political influence.

In these five years, the top grosser was, of course, Congress with Rs 1,662 crore, followed by the BSP (Rs 1,226 crore) and the BJP (Rs 852 crore). The estimate of total income was made using the income tax returns filed by each of these parties and obtained by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO working for election reforms.

An assessment of income of these political outfits shows that CPM has other traits in common with the bourgeois outfits. All of them keep the identity of almost all their donors -- from 90% in some cases to 99% in others -- a secret. In fact, CPM has been among the least transparent on that count, but better than the BSP which has put a lid on all sources of its funds. The list of donors declared by the Left party accounted for only 1% of its total income in at least two years — 2007-08 and 2008-09.

As against this, the BJP made public the identity of those who were the source of 20% and 14% of its funds in the two relevant years. Congress was less forthcoming, but with figures of 4% and 6% fared better than the CPM.

What is also interesting about the figures, which pertain to the phase when the CPM was in power in West Bengal and Kerala, is that some of the corporate donors to the party have also been contributing to Congress and the BJP.

The BSP did not declare the names of any of its donors. It claimed it was not obliged to take names because none of contributions that it received exceeded Rs 20,000- the threshold set by EC for mandatory disclosure of identity of donors.

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