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Political Math...

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Going by the amount of money that political parties have ‘officially’ collected as contributions over the last seven years or so — Rs 4,662 crore from 2004-2011 — they are terrible fundraisers. Or so it seems, based on a report released by two NGOs, the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch.

Not surprisingly, the two largest parties — the Congress and the BJP — account for nearly two-thirds of that amount — the former Rs 2,008 crore and BJP Rs 994 crore. Even the CPM received Rs 417 crore, says the report, along with the BSP (Rs 484 crore) and the Samajwadi Party (Rs 279 crore).

Interestingly enough, companies have given money to at least two, if not more, parties. Clearly, donor corporations don’t believe in putting all their eggs in one basket.

But reports by other NGOs and not-for-profit groups say that the amount of money spent by political parties in the last general elections exceeds Rs 10,000 crore, so much more than what the political parties themselves claim to have received, according to filings with the Election Commission.  The disparity appears considerable.

Despite our research, we were unable to fix the membership size of political parties; the number, if available, could have helped estimate how good the fundraising drives have been. In 1947, the Indian National Congress had 15 million or 1.5 crore members. Assuming that number hasn’t changed, each member has mobilised roughly Rs 2,000 in 7 years: a number that is rather hard to believe.

The discrepancy between spending and collections raises great suspicion. Are there any other ways of discovering how much money was actually raised?

Politically, it would be very difficult; parties claim they are audited anyway.

Perhaps it’s a job that the Comptroller and Auditor General can take on; he hasn’t shied away from castigating the government for its telecom and coal allocation policies. This could be right up his street.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 24-09-2012)