The Congress received total donations of Rs 58 crore from electoral trusts, which was less than several regional parties
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cornered the largest share of electoral trust funding in 2019-20, in a continuation of the trend from last year, media reports said.
The BJP received donations worth Rs 276.45 crore through this route in 2019-20, reported The Times of India. This includes Rs 217.75 crore from Prudent Electoral Trust, Rs 45.95 crore from Jankalyan Electoral Trust, Rs 9 crore from A B General Electoral Trust and Rs 3.75 crore from Samaj Electoral Trust.
The Bharti Airtel Group and DLF Limited are among the major donors to the Prudent Electoral Trust.
On the other hand, the Congress received total donations of Rs 58 crore from electoral trusts. Out of these, Rs 31 crore came from Prudent Electoral Trust, Rs 25 crore from Jankalyan Electoral Trust and Rs 2 crore from Samaj Electoral Trust.
Notably, several regional parties have received more funds through this route than the Congress. As noted by ABP News, these include the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (Rs 130.46 crore), Shiv Sena (Rs 111.4 crore), YSR Congress Party (Rs 92.7 crore), Biju Janata Dal (Rs 90.35), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Rs 89.6 crore) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Rs 64.90 crore).
On the whole, however, funding to political parties through electoral trusts reduced substantially in 2019-20 as compared to the previous year. In 2018-19, the BJP had got Rs a total of 472 crore from electoral trusts, while the Congress had received about Rs 99 crore.
What are electoral trusts?
Electoral trusts are non-profit companies that are set up to collect and disburse funds to political parties. In January 2013, the UPA regime notified the Electoral Trust Scheme, which provided for the setting up of electoral trusts under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. In January 2017, the Central Information Commission ruled that donations to electoral trusts and their disbursment cannot be considered as personal information.
As noted in an article in The Print, seven electoral trusts were formed after January 2013 — Satya Electoral Trust, Pratinidhi Electoral Trust, People’s Electoral Trust, Progressive Electoral Trust, Janhit Electoral Trust, Bajaj Electoral Trust and Janpragati Electoral Trust. Satya Electoral Trust later changed its name to Prudent Electoral Trust.
Difference between electoral trusts and electoral bonds
While electoral trusts were introduced in 2013, electoral bonds were introduced in 2018, and the latter method has quickly become a key part of funding received by political parties. Electoral bonds are interest-free bearer instruments used to donate money anonymously to political parties.
Transparency activists have criticised electoral bonds, as citizens cannot know which individual or company has funded which party, and to what extent. The government can, however, access the donor details by seeking the data from the State Bank of India.
In 2018-19, donations through electoral bonds were about ten times more than contributions received by electoral trusts, as noted by Factly.