Top corporate houses, including Reliance Group and Birla Group, have created new ‘Electoral Trusts’ in their names to offer funds to political parties ahead of the upcoming and keenly awaited general election early next year, according to news agency PTI. The report said that there are over a dozen other business houses looking to set up the similar bodies meant specifically for political funding.
Till now political funding from business groups were either clubbed under ‘donations’, as disclosed in annual reports or unaccounted for. Some large business groups such as Tatas and AV Birla have been maintaining such electoral trusts for many years.
The government had notified a scheme early this year to bring more transparency in funding of political parties by business groups. It encompassed some tax sops and guidelines such as ban on contributions from foreign citizens or companies. This also called for creation of a new entity; so even business groups with existing electoral trusts need to create new entities as part of the new system.
The Corporate Affairs Ministry had amended its guidelines to enable registration of such entities with ‘Electoral Trust’ as part of their names, thus differentiating them from the companies having other business interests.
The corporate houses that have set up their respective ‘Electoral Trusts’ include Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group, Sunil Mittal-headed Bharti Enterprises Ltd and Kolkata-based KK Birla Group, the news agency said.
Interestingly, though the new scheme is to bring about transparency in the political funding process, none of the trusts carries names which link them to their business group. For instance, Satya Electoral Trust is related to Bharti group, Janhit Electoral Trust belongs to Vedanta group, People’s Electoral Trust to Reliance group and Samaj Electoral Trust Association to KK Birla group. One more trust by the name of Pratinidhi Electoral has been registered; but it could not be ascertained as to which corporate house it is related to.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)