The BJP has emerged as the Big Daddy of the Indian large corporates and the party is taking maximum advantage of the anonymous character of the donors to the recently introduced electoral bonds scheme, by cornering more than 90 per cent of the total funds. The trends of the collections of BJP from the electoral bonds and the different trusts run by the large corporates indicate that by March 31, 2019, the BJP will be multiple times cash rich compared to the grand old Congress Party and its financial muscle during the next Lok Sabha elections in April/May 2019 will be such that the ruling party at the Centre will be in a position to spend ten times the expenditure per candidate compared to one from the Opposition.
The data of funds purchased for the electoral bonds during the period April 1, 2018 to October 31, 2018 give ominous trends. The first seven months of the 2018-19 financial year, the bonds purchases totalled around at Rs. 600 crore and there is every indication that the purchases will be stepped up in the coming five months before the ending of the current financial year on March 31, 2019. This means, the political parties will be able to make use of these funds from the bonds for the coming Lok Sabha elections in April-May the same year. If the 2017-18 indications of the electoral bonds collections suggest, the BJP is expected to corner 90 per cent if the funds from the electoral bonds. This means that from the bonds, alone, the saffrons will be richer by Rs, 1,000 crore before the Lok Sabha elections.
In 2017-18, the first year of the introduction of electoral bonds, the official figures state that Rs 222 crore were raised from the contributors and out of that, Rs 210 crore was received by BJP bagging 94.5 per cent of the total. The Congress figures are not known but it will be less than Rs 10 crore since only Rs 12 crore is left after BJP has taken away Rs 210 crore out of the total of Rs 222 crore collected during 2017-18.
Thus, the position of the Congress Party is pathetic in terms of contribution from the donors, mostly belonging to the industry and the businessmen. Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s continuing tirade against the industrialists starting with Anil Ambani must have antagonise the industry people, especially the crony capitalists who are getting a feeling that the young president might opt for a centre-left economic policy delinking to a great extent from the neo-liberal line of the earlier UPA era.
That the BJP is a darling of the Indian corporates is also clear from the funds obtained by the party from the Prudent Electoral Trust which gave BJP Rs. 144 crore out of the total of Rs. 169 crore donated in 2017-18. In the current fiscal, this amount will go up further and the BJP will be flush with minimum Rs. 200 crore during 2018-19 just on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections. The opposition political parties are critical of the electoral bonds scheme as the sources remain anonymous. But this suits BJP and its corporate friends. In all in 2017-18, BJP raised Rs 467 crore or 52.8 per cent of its funds from anonymous sources. Besides, the BJP has declared Rs 437 crore in its contribution report giving names of the donors.
The BJP was initially a party of the traders and till late eighties, the BJP’s coffers were not substantial as only a few corporates took interest in the BJP then and the Congress was the darling of the Indian business houses since the beginning of Independence. Though the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not like hobnobbing with the Indian industrialists, the Congress Party’s treasurer always depended on the Indian big houses for donations. The Birlas were the closest to the Congress party and they adopted a large number of the Congress MPs and took care of their election expenses. Other prominent industry people also gave substantial donations to the Congress party and it was a norm that the concerned industries will be given quid pro quo facilities.
This situation started changing after 1977 when the Jan Sangh became a part of the Janata Government and the saffronites interacted with the industry people as a part of the Central Government. After the BJP was formed, the party leadership gave special focus on cultivating the industry people apart from their traditional traders base, by wooing the disgruntled industry heads who felt let down by the Congress. A strong industry lobby was formed by BJP and initially this lobby belonged those who were adversely affected by foreign competition. Later, many middle-level industry groups became BJP supporters. The situation further favoured BJP after 1989 and in the next ten years, the BJP started collecting huge funds from the industry, traders and the overseas friends of the BJP
The situation was consolidated by the BJP during 1999-2004 period of Vajpayee’s rule and the BJP became much more resourceful than the Congress in terms of funds. During the ten years of the Congress-led UPA rule from 2004 to May 2014, the resources of the BJP in terms of fund raising only got strengthened as there was a huge expansion of the overseas base of the BJP in the wake of the spread of Hindu nationalism amongst a good section of the NRIs. The BJP resource base expanded the most in the USA as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was liked by the rich Gujarati entrepreneurs based in the US and they liberally contributed to the BJP funds. Support also came through the various branches of the far-right Hindutva organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad in foreign countries and the Hindu temples controlled by them.
As a result, after the coming of BJP to power in May 2014 under Narendra Modi, the Congress was nowhere near the BJP in terms of resources. The industry people who used to give funds liberally to the Congress during its rule, started giving only token amount to the GOP and the bulk amount started going to the BJP. Further, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a set of industry leaders as his admirers as against the Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who are not popular with the industry heads the way Modi and Amit Shah are. The Congress leaders at the high command level have to labour a lot to persuade the corporates to give donations — a complete reversal from the position during the Congress reign when the corporate bosses vied with one another in filling the coffers of the 133-year-old party.
The only way the Congress can raise its resources again in a substantial manner is to strengthen its organisation and lead the Opposition against the Modi government from the front. The party has to go back to the people with a new look, fresh appeal and energised leadership. INC has forgotten the habit of raising small amounts from common people and its supporters for the party fund. The small donations derived from the masses will help the party to reconnect with the vast swathes of disgruntled Indians and simultaneously help raising funds. Only when the INC gets back its mojo and emerges as a viable alternative as the leader of the anti-BJP coalition for the Opposition, the funds will automatically start pouring in.
The corporates which deserted the Congress, will give a relook at the ground political reality and the latest balance of forces. If they are convinced that the Congress is in a fighting mood and in a position to give the BJP a run for its money, they will start increasing their share of donations to the grand old party. The BJP share will still remain much more but the Congress share will increase from the earlier meagre amount. In any case, the Congress will never be able to match BJP in terms of total resources as it is in no position to compete with BJP’s existing strength in raising resources from overseas. However, before a popular anti-incumbency tsunami, if there is one, even the coffers of cash-rich saffron emperors will be of no use. (IPA)