Biggest corporate slice for BJP, shows ADR report

The BJP has attracted the maximum corporate donations even when it was not in power

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 10.07.19, 7:11 AM
  • Updated 10.07.19, 7:11 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
BJP supporters at a Narendra Modi rally in Bengal's Kharagpur in the run-up to this year's Lok Sabha polls. The magnitude of the party's bite becomes evident when compared with that of the runner-up — the Congress — which received a measly 5.6 per cent of the total amount donated by the corporates Telegraph file picture

The BJP bagged a whopping 92.94 per cent of all corporate donations made to political parties between 2016 and 2018, according to data analysed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO that focuses on electoral and political reforms.

The BJP received Rs 915.596 crore from 1,731 corporate donors, accounting for nearly 93 per cent of the Rs 985.18 crore donated by companies to political parties in the two years.

The magnitude of the BJP’s bite becomes evident when compared with that of the runner-up — the Congress. The Opposition party received from 151 corporates Rs 55.36 crore or a measly 5.6 per cent of the total amount donated by the corporates. In the third place, the Nationalist Congress Party collected Rs 7.73 crore or 0.78 per cent of the total amount donated.

The figures reveal what might only be the tip of an iceberg. The period reviewed does not cover 2018-19, the general election year when the full impact of the opaque electoral bonds and removal of the cap on corporate donations would have kicked in. The electoral bonds that offer anonymity debuted in 2018 January while the cap on corporate donations was removed in April 2017.

The ADR analysed annual data submitted by the national parties to the Election Commission on donors who contributed more than Rs 20,000.

The figures from 2012-13, when it became apparent that the political fortunes of Narendra Modi were on an upswing, to 2017-18 show a dizzying ride.

The BJP has attracted the maximum corporate donations even when it was not in power. But the amounts show a dramatic rise from 2013-14, more than doubling to Rs 156.93 crore from Rs 72.99 crore a year earlier.

The steady rise was broken in 2015-16 when the donations to the BJP dived to Rs 67.49 crore, only to hit a high of Rs 515.4 crore in 2016-17, the demonetisation year. The share of several other parties too had gone up in the year but in absolute terms, the BJP was far ahead.

Reacting to the report, Trinamul’s Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien underscored the huge increase in the BJP’s funds after demonetisation.

In 2017-18, the corporate donations showed a fall, compared with the demonetisation year.

“Between FY (financial year) 2012-13 and 2017-18, donations from corporates to national parties increased by 414%, with a major drop in the percentage of corporate donations in FY 2015-16…. Donations from corporates to national parties reduced by 25.07 per cent between FY 2016-17 and 2017-18,” the ADR report said.

The data suggest companies did loosen their purse-strings from 2016-18, compared with the eight-year period of 2004-12.

“… During the period 2016-18, various sectors of business houses donated a total of Rs 985.18 crore, constituting 93 per cent of the total contribution to political parties from known sources. Donations from corporates to national parties increased by 160 per cent from the period 2004-12 to 2016-18,” an ADR report said.

Asked why specific year groups were picked out, Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of the ADR, said: “The time periods given depend upon when the data has been made available. 2004 to 2012 is given as one because all that data may have been given at the same time.”

Real estate and manufacturing played a key role in the donations.

“…Electoral trusts were the biggest donors to the national parties, contributing a total amount of Rs 488.42 crore. The real estate sector was the second highest overall contributor in FY 2016-17, contributing a total amount of Rs 49.94 crore. While in the FY 2017-18, the manufacturing sector was the second highest overall contributor with Rs 74.74 crore…,” according to the ADR report.

The BSP submitted that none of its donations was more than Rs 20,000 and hence, did not reveal the names of any corporate donors.

Corporate donors include trade unions. However, barring the Left, none of the parties listed unions as their donors. The biggest donors are electoral trusts which have several companies as members.

The CPM saw a sharp increase in the share of corporate donations in the total voluntary contributions above Rs 20,000.

“Between FY 2012-13 and 2015-16 and FY 2016-17 and 2017-18, the share of corporate donations received by the CPM increased to 55 per cent from 17 per cent,” the report said. A Rs 2.5-crore donation from the Central Organisation of Tamilnadu Electricity Employees accounts for more than half of the jump.

The share of corporate donations in the CPM’s total voluntary contributions is still lower than all parties, except the CPI. The BJP has the highest share at 94 per cent followed by the Congress at 92 per cent.

CPM politburo member and former general secretary Prakash Karat told The Telegraph: “We don’t accept any electoral bonds. As a rule, we generally don’t take any donations from companies. Individual businessmen may contribute, but we don’t take money from big companies… Some small private limited companies may have contributed.”

CPM’s donors include Hyderabad-based construction giant Navayuga Engineering Company which gave Rs 30 lakh and the Kottayam-based garment-store chain Seematti Textiles (Rs 17 lakh).