Taking undue advantage of the permission to hide donations below Rs 20,000, the sources of income of political parties remain largely unknown. While the income of 23 key regional political parties from unknown sources is more than 54 per cent during FY 2018-19, Shiv Sena, currently ruling the state government, has the third highest such income. Total income of National Parties from unknown sources totalled 67 per cent during the same period.
During 2018-19, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena earned Rs 60.73 crore, while Navin Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) earned Rs 213 Crore and Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR-Congress earned Rs 100 crore as income from unknown sources. These parties’ 90 per cent of the income from unknown sources came from Electoral Bonds.
“The total income of 23 regional political parties in FY 2018-19 was Rs 885.956 cr. Total income of political parties from unknown sources (income specified in the audit reports whose sources are unknown) is Rs 481.276 cr, which is 54.32 per cent of the total income of the parties. Out of the total income from unknown sources, 23 regional parties got 90.798 per cent or Rs 436.99 crore from Electoral Bonds. The income from voluntary contributions (below Rs 20,000) formed 7.72 per cent (Rs 37.14 cr) and the sale of coupons formed 1.48 per cent (Rs 7.134 cr) in the income from unknown sources of the 23 regional parties disclosed in the report released by ADR.
“Since a very large percentage of the income of political parties cannot be traced to the original donor, full details of all the donors should be made available for public scrutiny under the RTI. Some countries where this is done include Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Bulgaria, the US and Japan. In none of these countries, it is possible for more than 50 per cent of the source of funds to be unknown, but at present it is so in India,” Association for Democratic Reform ( ADR) recommended in its report.
The ADR has prepared an analytical report on the sources of funding of regional parties during the Financial Year 2018-19 by studying the Income Tax Returns and donations statements filed by these parties with the Election Commission of India (ECI). The political parties are not required to reveal the name of individuals or organisations giving less than Rs 20,000. As a result, a substantial amount of funds cannot be traced and are from ‘unknown’ sources.
What is unknown source income?
The income from unknown sources is the income declared in the Annual Audit reports, but without giving a source of income for donations below Rs 20,000. Such unknown sources include ‘donations via Electoral Bonds’, ‘sale of coupons’, ‘relief fund’, ‘miscellaneous income’, ‘voluntary contributions’, ‘contribution from meetings/ morchas’, amongst others. The details of the donors of such voluntary contributions are not available in the public domain.