The Bharatiya Janata Party received Rs 167.8 crore, or 86.59% of the total money electoral trusts donated to political parties in 2017-’18, the Association for Democratic Reforms said in a report released on Wednesday. In the same period, the Congress, the Biju Janata Dal, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference together received Rs 25.98 crore.
These trusts – at present, 22 are registered – are non-profit companies formed by various private corporations for political funding. According to the Election Commission’s guidelines issued in June 2014, all electoral trusts formed after January 2013 are required to declare details of the money they receive and how it is disbursed. However, 10 registered trusts have either declared they have not received any contributions or have not submitted their reports. Central government rules mandate these firms to donate 95% of their total income to registered political parties in a financial year.
Of the corporate groups, Bharti Airtel has contributed the highest amount – Rs 25.005 crore – to these trusts, followed by DLF Ltd with Rs 25 crore and UPL Ltd, which donated Rs 22 crore.
Before the Centre’s rules were formulated, six electoral trusts had donated Rs 105 crore to national parties between the 2004-’05 and 2011-’12 financial years, said the Association for Democratic Reforms. However, since the rules are not retrospective, these firms are not required to follow the rules and declare their donor details.
“Details of donors to these six electoral trusts remain unknown thereby leading to speculation on whether donations to these trusts was only a means of getting tax exemption or a way to convert black money stashed in tax havens to white money in India,” said the Association for Democratic Reforms.
It recommended that details of donors to these electoral trusts should be disclosed and the rules that apply to the trusts formed after January 2013 should also apply to them to improve transparency.