Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Masters of Indian Parliamentary Parties

Whose cash are the major political parties banking on this time? A good part of election financing is obviously done with black money, but a close look at formal business funding in the recent past offers enough clues on who's bankrolling whom.
Quite clearly, businessmen have their favourites, but many others tend to back all major parties even-handedly. Else, they offer donations based on the popular votes/seats received by each major party at the last elections.
The Congress' big backers are the Aditya Birla group and the Tatas, while the BJP received substantial funding from the Sterlite group of Anil Agarwal and the Gujarat-based Adanis. The Dhoots of Videocon backed both the major parties and also the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.
Using the Right to Information Act extensively, DNA obtained the officially declared contribution figures of various political parties between 2003 and 2007. Since disclosures are voluntary, the figures are only indicative, and may also hide more than they reveal. Thus, there is little data on Mayawati's BSP, which did not submit any declaration to the Election Commission.
Missing from the declarations are the contributions of the Ambani brothers. While Mukesh has access to the highest levels in the Congress, Anil Ambani is close to the Samajwadi Party's Amar Singh.
The Congress and the BJP hogged the lion's share of the booty during 2003-07 -- almost identical amounts of Rs 52.42 crore and Rs 52.93 crore. No business house obviously wants to fall foul of the two principal nodes of Indian politics, whether they are in power or on the sidelines.
But given the growth in coalitions, the smaller parties aren't doing too badly either.
Adani contribution of Rs4 crore to BJP underscores proximity to Modi

Small parties, big bucks
Smaller regional parties haven't done too badly either in the queue for formal business funding. The Shiv Sena (Rs 4.17 crore), the SP (Rs 2.45 crore), the TDP (Rs 2.25 crore) and health minister Anbumani Ramadoss' PMK (Rs 2.86 crore) were key beneficiaries during this period.
The Aditya Birla group headed by Kumar Mangalam Birla emerges as the country's biggest donor, having made total donations to the tune of Rs 24.67 crore. The bulk of it went to the Congress party -- Rs 21.71 crore.
The BJP got all of Rs 2.96 crore. The Birla General Electoral Trust made donations only to these two major political parties.
The BJP's political interests, on the other hand, were strongly supported by the Public and Political Awareness Trust based in Silvassa. It received Rs 9.5 crore between 2003 and 2007 from this trust, which, in turn, received most of its funds from the Sterlite group of Anil Agarwal.
In 2000, 51% of public sector unit Balco was sold to the Sterlite group by the then NDA government. Separately, Sterlite Industries donated Rs 1 crore to the Congress and another Rs 50 lakh to the BJP.
The Venugopal Dhoot-led Videocon consumer durables group gave more than Rs 10 crore to three major parties - the BJP, Congress and Shiv Sena. Of this, Rs 4.5 crore went to the Congress and Rs 3.5 crore to BJP. The Sena got a generous Rs 2.63 crore. Not surprising, since Dhoot's brother Raj Kumar is in the Rajya Sabha, courtesy Shiv Sena.
The Tatas are not far behind. They have donated Rs 4.32 crore to the Congress and another Rs 2.67 crore to the BJP. The Shiv Sena got Rs 60.94 lakh and the Telugu Desam (TDP) Rs 48.48 lakh. These donations were made through Electoral Trust, which was set up before the 1999 general elections for encouraging transparent political funding.
The Gujarat-based Adani group, which is into commodities trading, edible oil, infrastructure and private port operations, was the biggest benefactor of the BJP. Gautam Adani's proximity to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, often seen using the former's private planes, brought the BJP Rs 4 crore. The Congress got only Rs 20 lakh.
The professionally-managed ITC has scattered its largesse far and wide as it donates money on the basis of the parliamentary representation of each political party. The company gave Rs 1.45 crore to the Congress, Rs 1.38 crore to the BJP, Rs 36 lakh to the Samajwadi Party, Rs 12 lakh to the Shiv Sena, Rs 14.5 lakh to the TDP, Rs 8 lakh to Janata Dal (U) and even Rs 5 lakh to the AIADMK.
Engineering giant Larsen & Toubro has given Rs 1.6 crore to BJP, Rs 1 crore to Congress and another Rs 35 lakh to the Shiv Sena. The Mahindra group has distributed Rs 2.2 crore between the Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and TDP. The Bajaj group has given Rs 1 crore each to Congress and BJP.
Naveen Jindal, who was elected to the current Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket, has donated a sum of Rs 1 crore to the Congress. Interestingly, he has also donated Rs 75 lakh to his party's main rival, the BJP.
The GMR group, which bagged major contracts for airport development across the country, donated Rs 1 crore to the BJP and Rs 25 lakh to the Congress through GMR Power Corporation and its promoters. Vijay Mallya's Shaw Wallace group, acquired in June, 2005, donated a sum of Rs 1 crore to the BJP in 2004-05.
There are several other notable names in the list. Pharma firm Ranbaxy donated Rs 95 lakh - Rs 65 lakh to the Congress, Rs 25 lakh to BJP and another Rs 5 lakh to TDP. The LM Thapar group donated Rs 70 lakh to the Congress and BJP. The Umesh Modi group gave Rs 50 lakh to the BJP and Rs 25 lakh to the Congress.
Among lesser-known financiers are Akik Education Centre, based in Delhi's Shahdara area at Baldev Park. Akik poured Rs 1.5 crore into the BJP's coffers. There is a three-storey building at the given address but DNA did not find any educational institute. Ahmedabad-based Nima Specific Family Trust gave Rs 1 crore to the BJP and Rs 30 lakh to the Congress.
Real estate groups - often operating at the edge of the law - also found a place among the formal donors to the major parties. The Ambience Group, led by Raj Singh Gehlot, which is into the construction of malls and luxury apartments, donated Rs 1.05 crore to the Congress from its Green Park Extension office. Another builder based in the capital, Somdutt Builders, gave Rs 75 lakh to the BJP.
Punj Lloyd, an engineering, construction and project management firm, doled out Rs 1 crore to the BJP while real estate developer Today House & Infrastructures donated Rs 55 lakh to the Congress.
The Jubilant group, which is into hyper and supermarket development, and real estate association Creda handed over Rs 50 lakh and Rs 47 lakh to BJP. Sanskriti Developers dished out Rs 50 lakh to the Congress and Rs 15 lakh to the Shiv Sena.
Quite clearly, from obscure trusts to famous industrial houses, all of them have contributed to keep the wheels of political parties greased.

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