Even as the programme of demonetising high denomination notes in India near the 50-day mark, a rather large question mark hangs over the exercise: what about fixing political funding? It’s an open secret that elections in India are financed by illegal wealth. As this paper by Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav shows, there is a link between real estate – a known source for illegal cash – and election cycles. Yet, the Union government has done nothing to change the rules to fund elections. Even as the cashless economy is forced on the common man, 75% of funds to national parties are from unknown sources and cannot be traced. And this situation is completely legal. The law provides a wide berth to political parties.

Against this backdrop, the sharp correlation between the Bharatiya Janata Party’s funding and its political fortunes is an interesting data set to track. As its political fortunes rose, the BJP’s funds go hrough the roof, raising questions about the use of wealth – illegal or otherwise – to distort the democratic election process in India.

The BJP got more than 3X of the funds received by all other national parties combined

The BJP managed to collect Rs 77 crore in donations in the year 2015-’16. This is three times more than the amount received by the other national parties taken together. Moreover, this is only a part of the donations received since as per a Union government law, parties are free not to report donations below Rs 20,000.

How will the immense resources that the BJP has access to affect the polls?

The BJP’s share of the pie is rising in power

Why do large corporations fund parties? At least one answer would involve them buying influence and power to change policy at both the state and the Union level. It is thus no surprise that the BJP’s share of the national party funding pie went up from 69% to 75% from 2014-15 to 2015-’16. Maybe aware of this spotlight, even as demonetisation goes ahead full steam, on November 15, the prime minister suggested a public funding model for elections in India. However, will the prime minister use his party’s majority in the Lok Sabha to convert this idea into reality?