The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO working in the field of electoral and political reforms has released a report disclosing the income of 32 regional parties. In its report, the ADR has revealed that the most common sources of funding for the political parties since the last two financial years have been grants, donations, contributions, gross receipts and interest income (bank, FD, TDR with bank) and the most common items of the expenditure were election expenses, administrative and general expenses. In an earlier report, the ADR had disclosed that 69% of political funds are from unknown sources suggesting worrisome lack of transparency in political funding. In another report, the ADR had stated that a bulk of party funds can be attributed to corporate funding.
Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi party (SP) has emerged as the richest regional party according to a report by the ADR. SP recorded an income of Rs. 82.76 crore for the financial year 2016-17. Confirming this finding, the ADR stated that the Akhilesh led party reported as having the highest income among the regional parties forms more than 25% of the total income of all 32 regional parties. It is closely followed by the Telugu Desam Party with a total income of of Rs 72.92 crore.
This is not for the first time that the SP has topped the charts among the regional parties. Today, its fortunes looks bleak due to its incapable leadership but there was a time when it enjoyed immense numerical strength and was regarded as an indomitable force within the United Front. In the turbulent years of mid-1990s, Samajwadi Party was at the peak of its power. In fact, such was the numerical strength of the Samajwadi Party that in the run up to the 1998 elections, Mulayam Singh was seen as a top contender for the post of the prime minister of the country. In fact, most of the United Front constituents agreed that the SP will emerge as the single largest party in the alliance of regional satraps. The Samajwadi Party had even taken the decision to project Mulayam Singh as the prime minister-in-waiting. Even during the UPA regime, SP was seen as the kingmaker and a savior of the Congress.
Even before 2014, Mulayam Singh eyed the top post and tried to act as the kingmaker. However, Modi’s emergence as an undisputed national leader and BJP’s phenomenal rise in Uttar Pradesh meant that SP was bound to lose the kind of influence it once enjoyed. With the embarrassing drubbing that it suffered at the hands of the BJP last year which made it clear that the party’s reign had ended for all practical purposes.
SP has emerged not only as the richest regional party, but also as the highest spender having spent Rs 147.1 crore in 2016-17. Another prominent regional satrap, AIADMK stands at the third slot among the richest regional parties with an income of Rs 48.88 crore and disclosing an expenditure of Rs. 86.77 crore. ADR has recommended in this report that any party which does not submit its IT returns or donation statement to the ECI on or before the due date, their income should not be tax-exempted and defaulting parties should be de-recognized.