By Nitya Chakraborty
The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) continues to increase its coffers at a big speed taking advantage of the Party ruling at the centre and in 21 of the total 29 states in the country. There is nothing new in the latest report of the Association of Democratic Reforms(ADR) about the number one position of BJP among the political parties in terms of getting political donations, but what is revealing is that the gap between the BJP and the main opposition Congress has widened very fast and in 2016-17 the BJP claimed an income of Rs. 1,000 crore forming 66.34 per cent of the total income of the national parties added together during the year. The , BJP’s income increased by 81 per cent from Rs. 570 crore in 2015-16 to Rs. 1003 crore in 2016-17 while the income of the Congress party declined by 14 per cent from Rs. 261 crore to Rs. 225 crore. This means that in 2016-17, the BJP’s income was more than four times of the Congress which was the major national political party of the country after independence.
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 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 Government. After the BJP was formed in 1980, the Party leadership gave special focus on cultivating the industry people apart from their traditional traders base, by wooing the disgruntled industry people 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 people 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. In fact, the BJP took full advantage of the V.P. Singh government in 1989-90 by giving outside support and succeeded in planting its supporters in many key positions.
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 view of the spread of Hindu nationalism amongst a good sections of the NRIs. The BJP resource base expanded most in the USA as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was liked by the rich Gujarati entrepreneurs based in US and they liberally contributed to the BJP fund. Funds also came through the branches of VHP 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 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 bulk amount 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 leaders 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 Congress Party. That way the ADR report’s revelation earlier that the BJP got 74 per cent of Indian corporate donations during the four year period, is on the lines of the political changes that have taken place in the country.
BJP has got some advantages in terms of resources raising which the Congress has lost now. The BJP is now ruling most of the states while the Congress is ruling in a much lesser number of states. Two major states of the Congress rule are Karnataka and Punjab. In recent state assembly elections, the Congress has lost in a big way in Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the Samajwadi Party. The BJP has got huge social media network and its supporters in a systematic manner, have created a buzz that the Party is returning to power in 2019 with massive majority. The corporate media also through its surveys are projecting a situation where the opposition including the Congress will be no match to BJP in the electoral battle. This political climate has further alienated the industry donors from the Congress. Nobody, especially the businessmen want to be identified with losers. The Congress is not in a position to give any facilities to the industry people. The BJP is now all pervading in terms of giving facilities. The businessmen will naturally be more seen cultivating the BJP leaders and ministers. The Congress’s share of corporate donations will further dwindle while the BJP coffers will show phenomenal growth.
The BJP’s financial muscle power has increased in a massive manner in the last four years due to the activities of the Overseas Friends of BJP and the domination of the VHP related activists in the management of the temples in the USA and other western countries. In fact, the key members of the NRI support base of the BJP take responsibility of total funding of key constituencies. The foreign resources of the saffrons are so strong that they can meet the coming Lok Sabha election expenses without depending much on domestic resources mobilization.
Right now, the BJP’s financial muscle power is fully visible in the election campaign for Karnataka assembly which goes to the polls on May 12.Congress is the ruling party in the state and it has also labored hard to organize big resources but there is no match. Knowledgeable sources say that the BJP is spending funds at least three times more than the Congress in the Karnataka assembly poll. For both political parties, it is a do or die battle and the resources are being used without limit.
That way, the Congress and the opposition can not match the BJP in terms of money power in the coming Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2019.The BJP, flush with both domestic and foreign funds, is battle ready. The Party has announced its Mission 350 for the 2019 poll. For every Lok Sabha seat to be contested by the BJP, funds allocated will be huge. The Congress as also the other opposition parties can not combat the BJP offensive through matching money power, they have to meet the saffrons offensive through their index of opposition unity and presentation of a common programme to the electorate. The anti-BJP opposition parties have to mobilize the masses in millions behind their programme. Only such a programmatic unity among the Congress and the regional parties can meet the cash rich BJP’s challenge effectively in the 2019 poll.(IPA Service)