New Delhi

Two crore rupees of contributions received by the Aam Aadmi Party have disrupted its campaign just four days before Delhi elections. On Monday, a group of former party volunteers held a press conference, pointing to four donations of Rs 50 lakh each made by bogus companies to the party coffers in April 2014. Since the companies have no credible business activity, the opponents of AAP took the chance to accuse the party of accepting illicit funds.

“Hawala at midnight,” said Shazia Ilmi, the former AAP leader who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party last month. On Tuesday, no less than the finance minister Arun Jaitley labelled the donations from dubious companies as “round tripping of black money into the political system”.

In their defence, the leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party have said that the party accepted the donations by cheque and disclosed all the details on its website. The leaders expressed their inability to probe the financial background of all donors. “If we had anything to hide, why would we put it up on the website?” said Ashish Khetan, the party spokesperson.

Instead of defending itself, the party might have done better by attacking its opponents on their dismal record of disclosure of party funds.

A large chunk of the income of India’s leading political parties comes from unaccounted sources, analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms shows. Between 2004 and 2013, 73% of the income of national parties, a whopping Rs 4,368.75 crores, came from unknown sources of income.

Political parties in India are supposed to file annual income and expenditure statements with the Election Commission. Rules mandate that they disclose all contributions above Rs 20,000, providing the names, addresses and PAN numbers of the donors.

But ADR’s analysis shows that parties evade transparency by attributing large chunks of their income to contributions less than Rs 20,000. For contributions above Rs 20,000, often the details of the donors are incomplete. Either names, addresses or PAN numbers are missing.

Not only did the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is leading the attack on AAP, fail to submit its annual statement in time for the October deadline in 2014, the analysis for the previous year shows that more than 80% of its contributions came from unknown sources, either because the amounts were billed to be less than Rs 20,000, or because the details of donors were incomplete. The only face-saver for the BJP lies in the fact that the Indian National Congress fared worse on the yardstick of funding disclosures.

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