POLITICS

Unusual Corporate Donations Prop Up India's Regional Political Parties

Many parties are almost entirely funded by a single corporation.

18/01/2017 7:26 PM IST | Updated 18/01/2017 8:08 PM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Corporations contributed nearly 85% of the donations regional political parties received in 2015-16, new official data shows.

The Shiv Sena reported having received more than four times in donations than 20 other regional parties put together last year, and 98% of it came from one source--Videocon Industries, whose promoter Rajkumar Dhoot is a Shiv Sena MP. This is according to data submitted by political parties to the Election Commission and compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms.

In all, nearly 85% of donations above Rs20,000 to regional parties came from corporations. The KK Birla Group's Samaj Electoral Trust contributed over 77% of the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United)'s funds. One company--Ahmedabad-based Torrent Pharmaceuticals--contributed 100% of the Sikkim Democratic Front's (SDF) funds.

Among other corporate donors to regional parties, the Farhan Akhtar/ Ritesh Sidhwani-owned Excel Entertainment gave Rs1.5 lakh to the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. More recently, Akhtar and the MNS clashed over the party's opposition to Pakistani actors in Bollywood in October 2016. Zee Media founder Subhash Chandra may have been elected to the Rajya Sabha in June 2016 with BJP support, but the company donated Rs10 lakh to the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal in 2015-16. Chandra resigned as Director of the company in May 2016.

All political parties are required to submit details of donations received by them to the EC, but only details of donors who give more than Rs. 20,000 need to be made public. Details of donations above Rs20,000 made to seven national parties were released last year. For this report, ADR looked at 47 regional parties and the donations they received in 2015-16. Of these, 26 parties including the Samajwadi Party, the Jammu & Kashmir People's Democratic Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam did not submit the information in 2015-16.

The Aam Aadmi Party comes a distant second among regional parties, having received Rs 6.6 crore in 2015-16 as against the Rs 86.84 crore the Sena received. Five parties--the AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, NPF and RLD--claimed to have received no donations above Rs20,000 in 2015-16. The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena declared a 95% fall in donations between 2014-15 and 2015-16, from Rs 6.08 crore to Rs 28 lakhs.

The AAP was the only party which reported having received donations from individuals overseas. The party's top donor was Dr Ramesh Bellamkonda, a doctor who set up a microfinance charity and donated Rs 1.1 crore in all to the party. The AAP, however, failed to provide PAN details for 842 donations through which the party collected Rs2.89 crores.

The Anbumani Ramadoss-led Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in Tamil Nadu had some unusual patterns in its donations--all its donations came in cash, and it did not submit PAN card details of any of its donors, despite being required to do so by the ECI.

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