The Congress party has declared Rs 199 crore of income for 2017-18, a 12% decline from the previous year and its lowest in 11 years, according to the annual audit report filed by the party with the Election Commission of India (ECI) and data compiled by election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
The ECI made the audit report public on Thursday. ADR data is available on its website.
The Congress party’s income for the year is a fifth of the Rs 1,027 crore declared by its key opponent, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In 2016-17, the Congress declared Rs 225 crore of income. The Congress earned more than the BJP every year between 2001-02 and 2012-13, after which the BJP, which won national power in 2014, overtook the grand old party and maintained its lead, data shows. In fact, the Congress party’s share in the combined income of the two biggest national parties was just 16% in 2017-18, its lowest since 2001-02.
Is a party’s electoral success linked to an increase in the donations it receives?
“It is possible that parties that are likely to win get more donations.”said Trilochan Sastry of the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, who is also a founding member of the ADR.
It’s a matter of concern since parties that win will then be “beholden to the corporate who donated money than to the people”, Sastry said, adding: “We need to move to a system where people instead of corporates donate money so that parties are answerable to them.”
Out of the Congress’s Rs 199 crore of income in 2017-18, Rs 5 crore came in donations from electoral bonds, which political donors can buy from banks to pay political parties without revealing their identities. Such donations amounted to Rs 210 crore for the BJP, making it the biggest beneficiary of the instrument. The other national parties have shown zero income from electoral bonds.
The Congress and the BJP have the highest share of income among the national parties. Total income of the other five national parties in 2017-18 was Rs 171 crore, 14% of the combined income of the Congress and BJP for the year. In terms of the expenditure, the Congress spent Rs 197 crore in the year 2017-18, nearly equal to its income, according to its annual audit report.
Congress’s income included Rs 110 crore that it collected by selling coupons to small donors and Rs 32 crore it received in donations and other contributions.