By Harihar Swarup
About 3,000, registered unrecognized parties exist in India. Most of them are sham entities which rarely take part in any democratic exercise, but misuse legal exemptions offered to them and perpetuate huge scams ranging from tax evasions to money laundering, running into thousand crores of rupees.
For instance, there is commercial establishment located in quiet middle-class locality of Dattapada Road in Borivali, Mumbai. Except for the board outside, there is nothing to show that this is the registered office of Sardar Vallabhai Patel party (SVPP).
Sitting on a plastic stool in the centre of the tiny room, the elderly Dashrath Bhai Parekh, who is the national president of the party, is busy making bundles of kites. He says he is in the business of supplying kites, while politics for him is a means of doing social work. He claims he has worked with the likes of Morarji Desai and Sharad Pawar and Mayawati before forming his own party in 2006. Parikh’s party, however, has recently caught the attention of Election Commission and the income tax authorities for alleged financial irregularities with crores of rupees. Parikh refuted the allegation and says that his party’s donors include charitable organizations, businesses, the textile industry, diamond merchants and those in the field of real estate, and funding is above board. He says he has provided the authorities with all relevant documents since the party’s premises were raided by income tax sleuths in September2022.
In Mumbai again, on Swadeshi Mils Road in Chunabhatti, remnant of the Jantawadi Congress party at the address listed as its national office is a rolled up tricolor lying on the balcony of a modest two-storey building. AnantSwant, a senior citizen who owns the building, had rented it out to the party. Swant says he asked party president Santosh M Katke to vacate the premises after he came to know that the party indulged in wrongful activities.
A few kilometres away, deep inside the slums of the Wadala colony, a shanty doubles as the communication address as of the Janwadi Congress in the Election Commission records. Kate lives here with his wife and two kids. That Kate could be at the Centre of an alleged scam worth crores of Rupees shocked his neighbours, since the quiet man would pick up and go to work every morning and come back in the evening like any other normal person next door. However, when income tax officers raided the hutment and the party office last year, out came allegations that the party was involved in money-laundering worth, at least, Rs. Six crore. The hole-in-the-wall party had suddenly started receiving huge contributions. And, according to the Election Commission, it could have links with the SVPP.
Far away from the metropolis, in the hinterland of Uttar Pradesh, a similar story unfolds. In a bustling market in Sultanpur, a two-and-a-half –hour drive from Lucknow, a watch repair shop is also the address of a little entity called the Apna Desh Party. What lies behind the benign veneer of the small commercial establishment-cum-office of a political party is the story of a huge scam. Abdul Mabood, who owns the shop, is the president of the party. The outfit has been accused of misusing the income tax exemption for donations that they receive. Mabood, however, claims he is himself a victim of a fraud committed on him by one Razak, whom he has appointed as the president of the party’s state unit in Gujarat. Razak, Mabood claims, misused the PAN card of the party without his knowledge to collect funds and even opened a bank account in Gujarat for the purpose. He says he has filed a police complaint against Razak and o would be surrendering the PAN card too. The Election Commission says the party represents a curious case of two presidents and it got more than Rs 100 crores in donations despite showing little political activity.
In the dusty lanes of the industrial hub of Kanpur , the alleged financial misdeeds of the Jan Rajya Party—whose registered address is in Prayagraj and whose authorized signatory is mentioned in Election Commission records as Ravi Shankar Yadav — resulted in income tax raids in September 2022. The party is accused of flouting norms to get income tax exemption and the Election Commission is doubtful about its claim of having most of the donations from party supporters since the party has indulged in little political activity. (IPA Service)