Bharti-led Satya Electoral Trust and companies including Sterlite Industries, Cairn India, Lodha Dwellers, Torrent, and Crompton Greaves have emerged the top contributors to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the crucial general elections last year.
Such big corporate donors, which contributed in excess of Rs 1 crore each, accounted for at least a third of the Rs 363 crore raised by the BJP in FY14. The Congress, on the other hand, raised Rs 59 crore that year. Big donors accounted for about 80 per cent of the Sonia Gandhi-led party.
These details emerged from a list BJP recently submitted where it listed 1,480 donations of Rs 20,000 or more received during 2013-14. The Congress received around 710 such donations. Parties are not required to declare donations below Rs 20,000.
A Business Standard analysis of these lists showed that the BJP received at least Rs 120 crore, over twice of the Rs 50 crore received by the Congress from such top business houses.
The list showed the biggest contribution to the BJP in the last financial year came from the Bharti group-led Satya Electoral Trust, which gave Rs 41.37 crore. Apart from Bharti, which was the main contributor, other donors of this trust included several north India-based groups such as DLF, Hero Motors, Jubilant, Indigo, KK Birla and Shriram group.
The Vedanta group emerged the next major group contributor to the saffron party donating Rs 22.5 crore. While Sterlite gave Rs 15 crore, Rs 7.5 crore came from Cairn India. Lodha Dwellers (Rs 5.45 crore), Torrent Pharma (Rs 4 crore) and Crompton Greaves (Rs 3.5 crore) were the other top donors.
Congress had 10 big donors, who contributed Rs 1 crore each in 2013-14. The top three donors to the Congress were Satya Electoral Trust (Rs 36.5 crore), AV Patil Foundation (Rs 5 crore) and Bharat Forge (Rs 2.5 crore). Mahindra Life Space contributed Rs 1 crore each to both the Congress and the BJP.
According to existing company law provisions, companies are allowed to donate up to 7.5 per cent of their average profits of the preceding three years to political parties.
To further streamline the corporate funding of political parties and bring in more transparency, the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Election Commission have come up with new guidelines and disclosure requirements for trusts that fund political parties. Several top groups have established trusts under this new regime.
Business Standard wrote to top corporate groups such as Reliance, Vedanta, Kotak, Mahindra, KK Birla and Murugappa groups seeking details of the receipts and disbursals by these new trusts. However, none of them responded.
The latest figures confirm the long-term trend that whether in power or out of it, the BJP has been a preferred choice for corporate houses and electoral trusts set up by them when it comes to giving donations. Throughout the two terms of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, the BJP continued to get more donation from business houses.
"Analysing trends based on donations that are shown is not the whole story. What is required is more transparency wherein both political parties and corporates are required to declare every source of donation received and given," says S Chhokar, founder and trustee of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and former director in-charge of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
From FY05 to FY12, the BJP received nearly Rs 20 crore more from corporate donors than the Congress, according to data compiled by ADR. The ADR, a non-government organisation founded by some Indian Institute of Management professors, tracks elections and functioning of political parties. Even in terms of number of corporate donors, the BJP was far ahead of the Congress. As many as 1,334 donated to the former as opposed to only 418 to the latter during this period.
Another key pattern is the BJP's popularity among the manufacturing and realty firms, while miners, construction firms and trusts seemed to be the Congress' moneybags. Trusts and group of companies (Rs 70.28 crore), mining, construction, export/import sector (Rs 23.07 crore) supported the grand old party, while manufacturing sector (Rs 58.18 crore), power and oil (Rs 17.06 crore) and real estate (Rs 17.01 crore) were key BJP constituencies.
Over all, manufacturing and real estate sectors were the two large contributors to political parties during this period, according to ADR.
The top three donors to the Congress during the first seven years of the UPA rule were General Electoral Trust of the Aditya Birla Group (Rs 36.41 crore), Torrent Power (Rs 11.85 crore) and Bharti Electoral Trust of Bharti Group (Rs 11 crore). The BJP's top donors included General Electoral Trust (Rs 26.57 crore) Torrent Power (Rs 13 crore) and Asianet V Holding (Rs 10 crore).
The similar pattern was visible in FY13. While the Congress received a total donation of Rs 11.72 crore, the BJP got seven times this amount. The bulk of the donation received by these two major political parties came from the corporate sector.
Incidentally, the Aditya Birla Group that led the Congress donors' list till 2011-12, seemed to have lost interest in the ruling party in subsequent years. While it did not figure in the lists FY13 and FY14, Aditya Birla-led General Electoral Trust gave Rs 7.5 crore to the BJP in 2012-13, according to the ADR report.