Gujarat-based Torrent Power Ltd has been the biggest corporate donor to political parties in India. Despite being based in the state, ruled by BJP’s Narendra Modi for over a decade, and its perceived closeness to him, Torrent has, in fact, ‘donated’ more money to the Indian National Congress (INC) than the BJP over last seven years.
This has been revealed in the data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI), in response to an RTI filed by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). Torrent has donated Rs14.15 crore to Congress and Rs13 crore to BJP between 2004 and 2011. The company also donated Rs1 crore to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in last three years. Torrent comes second only to Electoral Trusts.
Significantly, Torrent is not the only Gujarat-based corporate who has donated to the Congress and BJP. Gautam Adani’s various companies, Dishman Pharma, Zydus Cadila etc have contributed significantly too.
Adani ranks 23 in Congress’s top donors list with Rs1.5 crore in last seven years, and the same amount was given to BJP from Adani Wilmar Ltd and Rs1.25 crore from Mundra Port Ltd. Nirma has also donated a whopping Rs15 crore to BJP. Not surprisingly perhaps, BJP has more corporate donors from Gujarat than the Congress.
These disclosures to the ECI of donations received in excess of Rs20,000 are mandatory for the political parties to claim tax relief. However, it must be kept in mind that these are only the official disclosures and one of the major challenges facing the country today is the movement of black money which weans its way into the system through cash payments.
A statement by ADR also cautions that several payments are known to be made in cash which are not recorded.
Sources in ECI in Gujarat have confided on earlier occasions that this mandate of releasing donation details only in excess of Rs20,000 is a tool that might be misused by parties and they are keeping a close watch on it.
A few months ago, BJP had floated a programme called Dhan Sangrah, which was to collect donations from common people. If a singular donation does not exceed Rs20,000, the details may not be submitted to the ECI. Besides, these donations are in cash. ADR has also asked the ECI to include in its strictures that cash donations should be accepted only against coupons of the party and that donations in excess of Rs20,000 may be accepted only through cheques.