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Sources of most of the parties’ funding ‘unknown’

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One report claimed that most of the sources of funding have been described by political parties as “unknown”. Such concealment of funding sources is not allowed in any other major democracy. For this report, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an organization working for electoral reforms, collected income tax returns of parties and donations to the Election Commission. information studied. After a thorough review, the ADR came to the conclusion that most of the sources of funding of the parties are unknown. According to the organization, in the financial year 2019-20, regional parties earned Rs 445.774 crore from unknown sources, which is 55.50 percent of their total earnings. Of this money also, 95.6 percent came from electoral bonds, which shows that these bonds continue to be the biggest source of income from unknown sources.

What are these ‘unknown’ sources ADR has told the known sources for this study to those whose information has been given by the parties to the Election Commission. These include donations worth more than Rs 20,000, sale of movable and immovable property, membership fees, representative fees, interest received from banks, sale of published booklets, etc. Unknown source means a donation of less than Rs 20,000, which is mentioned in the audit report but no information has been given about its source. These include donations received from electoral bonds, sale of coupons, relief funds, retail income, voluntary donations, donations received in meetings/fronts, etc. The details of donations received through these methods are not publicly available. Under the current system, parties are free to name individuals or organizations who have contributed less than Rs 20,000. As a result, they receive huge amounts of donations that cannot be traced to the giver. Under RTI, this information can be sought only from national parties, but even those parties have not complied with this order of the Central Information Commission. Parties not following the rules The highest earning parties from unknown sources are TRS (89.

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158 crores), TDP (81.694 crores), YSR-C (74.75 crores), BJD (50.586 crores) and DMK (45.50 crores). For this report, ADR studied 53 such regional parties that have been recognized by the Election Commission. But only 28 of these parties have filed their annual audit reports and contribution information reports. 16 parties have not submitted either of the two reports and the reports filed by nine parties are not visible on the website of the Election Commission. This shows that the parties do not even fulfill the expectations of the Election Commission.

According to the ADR, the national parties are more guilty in the matter of transparency regarding money. In 2019-20, the income from unknown sources was 70.98 percent of the total income of the national parties. ADR says that India is the only big democratic country where there is such a weak system. For example, countries like America, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, even in Nepal and Bhutan, it is not possible for parties to keep the source of more than 50 percent of their earnings anonymous. In order to improve this system in India, the Election Commission has given some suggestions to the government, such as the information of every person and organization who have donated more than Rs 2,000 should be made public. Apart from this, exemption from tax should be given only to those parties which contest and win seats in Lok Sabha or Assembly elections.

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