The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress saw the highest annual growth in their incomes in financial year 2018-19 ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, according to financial audit reports filed by the parties with the Election Commission of India (ECI) and figures from their previous audit reports compiled by election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms.
The BJP reported an income of Rs 2410 crore in 2018-19, nearly 135% more than its income in the previous financial year. The Congress reported Rs 918 crore of income in 2018-19, which is 361% more than its income in the previous financial year. The income of both the parties in 2018-19 was the highest they received in 18 years for which the data is available and this was the highest annual growth in their incomes in this period.
The figures suggest that the Congress party, which had been reporting a drop in its annual incomes for four consecutive years, recovered on this front. Not only did its income rise in absolute terms but its share in income received by the two parties also rose for the first time after falling for five consecutive years. The Congress had a majority share in the income of the two parties up to 2012-13. Its share fell below 50% in 2013-14 and then dropped every year, reaching just 16% in 2017-18. It has now grown to 28% in 2018-19.
Electoral bonds, which allow anonymous donations to political parties, were among the largest sources of income for these two parties. More than 60% of the BJP’s income came through electoral bonds, a total of about Rs 1451 crore. The Congress received Rs 383 crore through this instrument, comprising nearly 42% of its total income. In 2017-18, the year in which electoral bond scheme was first announced, the BJP received Rs 210 crore (20% of its income) while the Congress received just Rs 5 crore (2.5% of its income).
In terms of expenditure, the BJP spent Rs 1005 crore in 2018-19, compared to Rs 470 crore spent by the Congress. A majority of their spending was on election or general party propaganda – the BJP spent 79% on this while the Congress spent 66%. The gap in this kind of spending was higher in 2017-18 when the BJP spent 75% while the Congress spent just 15% of their incomes on elections or general party propaganda.
Annual audit reports for 2018-19 of all national parties, except the Nationalist Congress Party, have been made available on the ECI’s website. The BJP’s income of Rs 2410 crore is nearly 47% more than the combined income of the other national parties. In terms of expenditure as well, the BJP spent 39% more than the other national parties combined.