Filing audited accounts to the Election Commission is a pre-requisite for political parties to claim exemption from paying Income Tax, points out Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, while lamenting the fact that several political parties including BJP, AAP, Congress and the Samajwadi Party have failed to submit their audited accounts nearly three months after the expiry of the deadline on October 30, 2016. The defaulters’ list also includes the Nationalist Congress party and the Shiv Sena.
“Yet, the Government does not seem to have initiated any action to revoke the IT-exemption for failing to submit audit reports as per the deadline,” says Nayak, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring at the BJP’s national executive meeting on January 7 that the BJP would play a proactive role towards bringing in transparency in political funding.
Among political parties which did file their accounts up to March, 2016, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) declared the highest bank balance of ₹507.22 crores, followed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) with ₹282.23 crores and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam with ₹244.29 crores. All India Trinamool Congress reported a bank balance of ₹38.88 crores.
The audited accounts of political parties revealed also the expenditure pattern. Interestingly, the CPI(M), a cadre-based party that pays its whole-timers allowances, claimed to have incurred an expenditure of ₹84.81 crores during 2015-16. The Communist Party of India (CPI) claimed a far more modest expenditure of less than ₹10.18 crores that it received during the year from various sources. The BSP claimed to have spent ₹11.9 crores during the year and AITC ₹13.35 crores.
The highest spender, the CPI(M) also reported the highest receipts during the year of ₹107.48 crores, while BSP and AITC reported their annual receipts as ₹47.38 crores and ₹34.57 crores respectively.
The CPI(M) once again reported the highest cash in-hand at the end of March, 2016 of ₹3.56 crores, followed by AIADMK (₹39.98 lakhs), BSP (₹26.59 lakhs) and AITC (₹10.14 lakh). However, one of the richest political parties Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), reported a cash in-hand of just ₹29,000 and ₹19.24 lakh as its bank balance.
These accounts do not, however, provide any indication of how the political parties coped with demonetisation. “No political party has so far volunteered to give a detailed information about how it coped with the demonetisation-remonetisation drive,” says Nayak.