The contributions from the corporate sector dominate the funding of regional parties in the country. A report of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR)states that the regional parties, with an aggregate income of Rs.347.74 crore, earned more than sixty percent of their income from corporate contributions in 2016-17. Out of Rs. 91.53 crore (income from known sources), the regional parties received Rs.55.21 crore from different business houses. However, the report did not reveal the names ofthebusiness houses which donated money to them.
The report divided the income of regional parties into three parts- income from known sources, income from unknown sources and income from other known sources. While the known sources are the donations above and below Rs. 20,000, whose donor details are available through contributions’ report as submitted by regional parties to the ECI(Election Commission of India),the unknown sources include income declared in the IT returns but without giving the source of income for the donations below Rs. 20,000.
The report further added that Shiv Sena, despite a multi-fold decrease in revenue, remained the favourite of the corporate sector and received Rs.22.77 crore, followed by Siromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Samajwadi Party (SP) which received Rs. 14.26 crore and Rs. 6.65 crore respectively. The rich regional parties got richer with individual contributions too. Shiv Sena received individual contributions of Rs.2.36 crore whereas SP had to console itself with Rs 1.19 Crore. Interestingly, Aam Aadmi Party, which emerged second on the list, received more donations from individuals as comparedtocorporatesources.
The funding pattern of the regional parties appears different from the national parties. An earlier report suggested, through the usage of Electoral Trusts, the corporate houses route their money to the national parties. In 2016-17, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remained the favourite for corporate companies that reportedly donated a whopping sum of Rs.513 crore. The party received 53 per cent of it’s donations through only two electoral trusts: Satya Electoral Trust and Bhadram Janhit Shalika Trust.
While Satya Electoral Trust donated Rs.251.22 crore, Bhadram Janhit Shalika Trust donated Rs.30 crore to BJP. Interestingly, Satya Electoral Trust, floated in 2013, has been the biggest donor to BJP in recent years.
Satya Electoral Trust, which has changed its name to Prudent Trust, received contributions from many conglomerates like DLF and Hero Group. The trust was registered by telecom giant Bharti Enterprises group in 2013, but it claims to be independent. Similarly, Bhadram Janhit Shalika Trust, which donated Rs.30 crore to BJP was earlier known as SIL Employees’Welfare Trust.