NEW DELHI: A large part of income of political parties comes from unknown sources, including electoral bonds.
These parties collected Rs 3,377.41 crore from such sources in 2019-20, which was 70.98% of the total income of these parties.’
A report by poll rights group Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) says out of Rs 3,377.41 crore, income from electoral bonds was Rs 2,993.82 crore or 88.64%. Parties need money to reach out to voters, explain their goals and policies and receive inputs.
But an analysis of their IT returns and donation statements filed with the Election Commission shows that sources remain largely unknown.
Parties don’t have to reveal names of individuals or organisations giving less than Rs 20,000, nor those who donate through electoral bonds. More than 70% of the funds can’t be traced. Between 2004-05 and 2019-20, parties collected Rs 14,651.53 crore from unknown sources.
"During the financial year 2019-20, the BJP declared Rs 2,642.63 crore as income from unknown sources which is 78.24 per cent of the total income of national parties from unknown sources (Rs 3,377.41 crore)," the report said.
The Congress declared Rs 526 crore as income from unknown sources which is 15.57 per cent of the total income of the national parties from unknown sources, the ADR said.
In 2019-20, BJP declared Rs 2642.63 crore from unknown sources, which is 78.24% of the total income of parties from unknown sources.
ADR has found that this income of BJP is 3.5 times more than the aggregate of income from unknown sources declared by the other six national parties (Rs 734.78 crore).
Congress declared Rs 526 crore from unknown sources, which is 15.57% of the total income of parties from unknown sources.
Combined income of Congress and NCP from sale of coupons between 2004-05 and 2019-20 was Rs 4096.725 crore.
"National parties collected Rs 3,377.41 crore from unknown sources in the financial year 2019-20, which is 70.98 per cent of the total income of the parties.Out of the Rs 3,377.41 crore as income from unknown sources, share of income from Electoral Bonds was Rs 2,993.826 crore or 88.643 per cent," the report said.
“Since a very large percentage of the income of political parties cannot be traced to the original donor, full details of all donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the RTI. Countries where this is done include Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the US and Japan. In none of these countries, it is possible for more than 70% of the source of funds to be unknown,”said the ADR.
Unknown sources are income declared in income tax returns, but without giving source of income for donations below Rs 20,000.
Such unknown sources include 'donations through Electoral Bonds', 'sale of coupons', 'relief fund', 'miscellaneous income', 'voluntary contributions', 'contribution from meetings/morchas'.
The details of donors of such as voluntary contributions are not available in the public domain.
The ADR recommended that scrutiny of financial documents submitted by political parties should be conducted annually by a body approved by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Election Commission of Indai to increase transparency and accountability of political parties with respect to their funding.
National and regional political parties must provide all information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the ADR said.
"This will only strengthen political parties, elections and democracy. However, RTI or not, political parties should voluntarily account for every rupee that they get or spend," the poll rights body recommended.
Between 2004-05 and 2019-20, the national parties collected Rs 14,651.53 crore from unknown sources, it said.
According to the donations reports, containing details of donations above Rs 20,000 of the 2019-20 fiscal, Rs 3.18 lakh was received in cash by the national parties.
The poll rights body also said that the combined income of the Congress and the NCP from sale of coupons between the financial years 2004-05 and 2019-20 stands at Rs 4,096.725 crore.
(With PTI Inputs)