Anonymous political donations also haunt neighboring India

LAHORE: Like Pakistan, India also follows the British bicameral legislative system where the lower and upper houses of parliament are involved in drafting legislation, and the political parties present in these two legislative chambers depend on donations to carry out their operations.

However, loopholes and gray areas exist in the regulation of funds received by Indian political parties. Research shows that despite all kinds of regulations in place, more than 55% of donations received by regional Indian parties in 2019-2020 came from “unknown” sources, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) revealed in November 2021. .

In its edition of November 12, 2021, the renowned local media “The Indian Express” reported: “According to the ADR report, electoral obligations represented nearly 95% of donations from” unknown “sources. While the total donations received by 25 regional parties in 2019-2020 amounted to Rs 803.24 crore, Rs 445.7 crore was attributed to “unknown” sources, according to the report. Among donations from “unknown” sources, Rs 426,233 crore (95.616%) came from election bonds and Rs 4,976 crore from voluntary contributions. The report noted that donations received by national parties from “unknown” sources accounted for 70.98% of their income. “

A few months earlier, on June 10, 2021, this newspaper had disclosed: “In 2019-2020, the ruling BJP had received around 7.85 billion Indian rupees in donations from companies and individuals, according to its submitted contribution report. to the electoral commission (EC). That was more than five times the 1.39 billion rupees Congress had obtained. Jupiter Capital of BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, ITC Group, real estate companies Macrotech Developers (formerly known as Lodha Developers) and BG Shirke Construction Technology, the Prudent Electoral Trust and Jankalyan Electoral Trust were among the biggest donors to BJP .

The “Indian Express” claimed, “The BJP also received a large donation of Rs20 crore from Gulmarg Realtors, the real estate company associated with builder Sudhakar Shetty, in October 2019. The Enforcement Directorate raided the residence and the Shetty’s office in January 2020. At least 14 educational institutions were also among BJP donors.These include Mewar University, Delhi (Rs2 crore), Krishna Institute of Engineering (Rs10 lakh), GD Goenka International School , Surat (Rs2.5 lakh), Pathania Public School, Rohtak (Rs2.5 lakh), Little Hearts Convent School, Bhiwani (Rs21,000) and Allen Career, Kota (Rs25 lakh).

There are many BJP members, MPs and MPs among the party donors. In India, Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) allows parties to accept voluntary contributions from any person or business except a state-owned enterprise, while Section 29C obliges parties to political parties to declare donations over 20,000 Indian rupees.

Such a declaration is made by making a report and submitting it to the Election Commission. Failure to do so on time excludes part of the tax relief under the Income Tax Act, 1961.

It is imperative to note that on April 2, 2017, the Indian government lowered the limit on cash donations to political parties from 20,000 to 2,000 rupees, according to the “Hindustan Times”.

The Indian government had insisted that companies also refrain from giving cash, forcing them to donate by check or digital payment. The budget bill presented to the Indian parliament also introduced the concept of an “election bond,” whereby companies could purchase limited-term bearer bonds from listed banks and transfer those bonds to the registered bank accounts of the companies. political parties.

While these funds would flow through the banking system (rather than under the table), companies might not be required to disclose their purchases and parties are not required to report their deposits.

In an effort to restrict money in politics and introduce transparency in election finance, the Indian government therefore legally allowed corporations to donate unlimited amounts to political parties, all without having to disclose a single rupee.

In 2014, the Delhi High Court declared the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its main opponent, the Indian National Congress, guilty of receiving foreign funding. Not so long ago, a research paper by Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar College shed enough light on how Indian political entities raise funds.

The research paper had seen: “One of the biggest drawbacks to corporate finance is the use of bogus corporations to funnel black money. There are various loopholes in Indian rules, which political parties take advantage of to avoid any kind of denunciation. Hidden sources of funding lead to increased spending of funds in election campaigns, which has an impact on the country’s economy. “

He further said: “Over-reliance on corporate finance can transform political and democratic processes into long-term plutocracy.” On the history of corporate funding of political parties in India, the research paper found: “It goes back to the freedom movement. The Birlas were one of the major donors to the Indian National Congress. After independence, the business class as a whole gained some leverage in the economic policy-making of the Congressional government.