The Bharatiya Janta Party received Rs 553 crore in income from unknown sources in the financial year 2017–18, amounting to over four times the income received by five other national parties—the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India—combined. Donations and other sources of income for amounts under Rs 20,000 are classified as unknown because political parties do not need to disclose details of their respective donors. An analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-governmental organisation that works on issues of electoral reform, reveals that the BJP’s unknown income constitutes over 80 percent of the total unknown income of all six parties in 2017–18—a sum of Rs 689.44 crore.
The ADR analysed the unknown sources of income of the six political parties on the basis of their income-tax returns. According to its report, the Congress received Rs 119.91 crore—or 17.4 percent of the total unknown income of the six parties—while the BSP received Rs 10.67 crore and the NCP got Rs 5.37 crore. The Trinamool Congress received Rs 10.4 lakh as income from unknown sources, while the CPI received the least among the six parties, at Rs 30,000. The ADR did not include the donations received by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) because the party did not submit the relevant data to the income-tax department.
The ADR classified the unknown income under various heads, including voluntary contributions, electoral bonds, collections from the sale of coupons—which parties issue to donors for cash contributions—and miscellaneous income. Electoral bonds are financial instruments for anonymous contributions to political parties, which were introduced by the Narendra Modi government in the budget for the financial year 2017-18. They form a significant portion of the BJP’s donations from unknown sources—the party received Rs 210 crore from electoral bonds, whereas the Congress received Rs 5 crore.
Earlier this month, the ADR released another report, which analysed Election Commission data to quantify the donations of over Rs 20,000 received by India’s national political parties. The report revealed that among the donations from known sources, too, the BJP received significantly more than all other parties combined—the ruling party received Rs 469.89 crore, which constituted 93 percent of the total donations declared to the Election Commission.