Election Commission data on BJP’s burgeoning war chest, thanks to electoral bonds, comes as no surprise

Over 95 per cent of initial tranche of electoral bonds went to BJP, and the pattern continues. No transparency in funding by corporates is possible after Modi govt amended several laws to ensure this

Representative Image
Representative Image

Nitya Chakraborty

The Election Commission Report on income of the national political parties in India released on Monday shows that the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre and in most of the states, has made an income of Rs. 3,623 crore in 2019-20, a huge jump from the previous financial year.

There may be nothing unusual in the ruling party collecting more funds from the industry and the traders during its tenure compared to opposition parties, but in the present political environment of the country, the BJP is making use of every possible source to boost its funding so that it can inject the money in its election campaigns.

The industrial houses in the country, in general, seem to harbour a feeling that since the Modi government is in a comfortable position in Parliament, it would serve their interests to support the ruling party fully. They are apprehensive that any dithering will invite raids by investigating agencies. The fact is that most of these companies have skeletons in their cupboards and they can be caught if the government wants. This fear of raids has compelled a large section of the corporates which used to take a middle path before 2014, to increase substantially their donations to BJP.

Since the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, there has been a sea change in the manner of conducting elections, with social media playing a major role in influencing the opinion of the electorate. The expenditure limit of the candidates set by the Election Commission has become meaningless as political parties are free to spend huge amounts for campaigning. The BJP is taking maximum advantage of the opportunity by spending huge funds for campaigning, destroying any level playing field in the election campaigning.

In West Bengal, for instance, defections were organised by the BJP with money power, though it went on face a disastrous defeat at the hands of Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee and is still licking its wounds.

All talk of transparency in funding by the corporates is of no value now as the NDA government has amended a number of laws to facilitate donations by the industrial houses, for its own benefit.

The government amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), by making it legal for foreign companies to donate to political parties through their subsidiaries in India.

Further, an amendment was brought about in the Companies Act wherein the cap of 7.5% of annual profits (in last three years) which could be made by companies as donation to political parties was removed.

To do away with transparency, an amendment was made to the Income Tax Act by way of which the requirement of donor companies to disclose details about the political parties to which such a donation is made was removed.

However, the most damaging amendment was brought about in the RBI Act that introduced a non-transparent way of donating unlimited amounts to political parties even through banking channels by purchasing electoral bonds. Electoral bonds or EBs are like bearer bonds which could be given to political parties. The identity of the person who purchases these bonds is not known to the public or even to the Election Commission, but is known to the State Bank of India and through it, the government.

All these amendments together have disproportionately diverted political funding to the BJP. The BJP took full advantage of these government decisions in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the state assembly polls early this year. It will also obviously continue to use the money in the next round of assembly polls due next year, especially in Uttar Pradesh.

More than 95 per cent of the initial tranche of electoral bonds went to the BJP, and even thereafter, the vast bulk of it has gone to the BJP. That these donations are being made largely by corporates is clear from the fact that more than 99 per cent of the bonds have been purchased in denominations of Rs 1 crore and Rs 10 lakh.

Another reliable source of funding of BJP for elections is the amount organised from the overseas through ‘Overseas Friends of BJP’ and religious bodies including temples managed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). These temples abroad, especially in USA and UK, have huge funds and the BJP supporters find a way to remit funds to India which are used for elections.

According to one expert estimate, the BJP spent more than Rs. 25,000 crore in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and this consisted of a substantial portion remitted by BJP supporters from abroad.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 10 Aug 2021, 6:40 PM