Election Commission data reveals 93 percent of donations in 2017-18 went to BJP

As per the Representation of People Act of 1951, all political parties have to submit details of all contributions in excess of Rs 20,000 to the Election Commission. Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
Elections 2024
17 January, 2019

An analysis of donations to India’s seven national political parties, during the fiscal year 2017–18, revealed that the Bharatiya Janata Party received over 13 times the amount as the remaining six—the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the Trinamool Congress, and the Bahujan Samaj Party—put together. The Association for Democratic Reforms, or ADR—an NGO working on electoral reforms—prepared the report on the basis of Election Commission data on all donations of above Rs 20,000 to the national parties. As per the data, the sum total of all donations declared was Rs 469.89 crore, of which the BJP accounts for Rs 437.04 crore—93 percent. The BSP declared that it did not receive any donations above Rs 20,000, as it has consistently stated for the past 12 years.

After the BJP, the Congress received the highest contributions, at Rs 26.65 crore. The CPI (M) received Rs 2.75 crore, followed by the NCP which received Rs 2.08 crore, then the CPI with Rs 1.14 crore and finally the Trinamool Congress which received donations worth Rs 0.2 crore. “The BJP has been receiving more money than the Congress and other parties in recent years and the latest figures confirm this,” Anil Verma, head of the ADR and National Election Watch—a civil-society coalition working on electoral reforms—told me. “The trend we have seen is that before the general elections there will again be a spike.”

Courtesy the Association of Democratic Reforms

A breakdown of the geographical origins of the donations revealed that Delhi accounted for the maximum at Rs 208.56 crore, followed by Maharashtra at Rs 71.93 crore, Gujarat at Rs 44.02 crore and Karnataka at Rs 43.67 crore. This break-up was computed by analysing the addresses against the donations, as provided by the parties in their reports to the Election Commission. This is done in accordance with Section 29C of the Representation of People Act of 1951, which states that all political parties have to submit details of all contributions in excess of Rs 20,000 to the EC.

Courtesy the Association of Democratric Reforms

A sectoral analysis revealed that corporate entities accounted for nearly 90 percent, or Rs 422.04 crore, of the total contributions, while individual donors made up the remaining 10 percent at Rs 47.12 crore. The trend persisted here too, with the BJP accounting for Rs 400.23 crore of all corporate donations and Rs 36.71 crore of individual contributions. The Congress received Rs 19.29 crore from corporate firms and Rs 7.36 crore from individuals.

Courtesy the Association of Democratic Reforms

Overall, the top donor to the BJP was the Prudent Electoral Trust, an electoral trust reportedly run and promoted by Bharti Enterprises, which gave Rs 154.3 crore to the party. It is followed by the Ab General Electoral Trust, which donated Rs 12.5 crore. The BJP’s other top donors, in descending order, were—Cadila Healthcare at Rs 10 crore, Cipla Limited at Rs 9 crore, Usv Private Limited at Rs 9 crore, Micro Labs Limited at Rs 9 crore, M/S Pragathi Groups at Rs 8.75 crore, Rare Enterprises at Rs 8 crore, Mahaveer Medicare at Rs 6 crore and Alembic Pharmaceuticals at Rs 6 crore.

The Prudent Electoral Trust was the top donor to the Congress too, at Rs 10 crore, followed by Candila Healthcare Limited at Rs 2 crore; and Ab General Electoral Trust, Bharatiya Socialist Republican Electoral Trust, Nirma Limited and Triumph Electoral Trust, all of which contributed Rs 1 crore each. The rest of the party’s top donors were Gayatri Projects Limited, which contributed Rs 92 lakh, PI Industries Limited and Zydus Healthcare Limited, which donated Rs 50 lakh each and Pavan Anil Bakeri at Rs 25 lakh.

The NCP’s donors included a mix of real estate and infrastructure companies, and individuals including Supriya Sule, the daughter of the party chief Sharad Pawar. The CPI’s donors included the Kerala State council, which donated Rs 23.84 lakh, and individuals associated with the party, including D Raja, a CPI member of Rajya Sabha, Sudhakar Reddy, the party’s general secretary and Shameem Faizee, a secretary of the National Council of the CPI. The Trinamool Congress’s list featured no corporate entities and all its donors were individuals, including the party chief Mamata Banerjee, and other leaders such as Derek O’ Brien, Suvendu Adhikari and Idris Ali.

Courtesy the Association of Democratic Reforms

Jagdeep Chhokar, a co-founder of the ADR, said that the trend revealed by the latest data cannot be delinked from electoral bonds—anonymous financial instruments for contributions to political parties, introduced in the 2017 budget. According to a combination of the BJP’s annual audit reports and right-to-information data from the State Bank of India, the BJP was also the biggest beneficiary of electoral bonds in the financial year 2017–18, netting nearly 95 percent of the sum total of Rs 222 crore that was routed to political parties through the instruments.

“One of the insidious features of electoral bonds is that it has the potential to choke the flow of money to the opposition parties and give the lion’s share to one party,” Chhokar told me. “That is what is being proved indirectly.” He added, “My impression is that what is declared is the tip of the iceberg.”