New Delhi: Donors from outside Delhi have been the biggest benefactors of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) since its launch in 2012, accounting for over 75 per cent of its donations, party documents show.
Over the last seven years, the Arvind Kejriwal-led party, which is in power in Delhi, has received nearly Rs 185 crore in donations, with a high of Rs 54.14 crore in 2014-15 and low of Rs 2.02 crore in 2012-13. While Rs 25 lakh is the largest individual donation, Rs 10 is the lowest.
Just over a fifth of the donations, 21 per cent, came from overseas, while 24 per cent were dished out by Delhiites. The remaining 55 per cent came from the rest of India, with the residents of Mumbai and Bengaluru forming the second- and third-biggest blocs of donors by city after Delhiites.
Among the AAP’s foreign donors, most are based in the US and Canada.
Dip in donations a reflection of falling appeal?
Speaking to ThePrint, AAP overseas convener and national executive member Prithvi Reddy said the variation in donations through the years was only to be expected.
“It is but natural that during elections we end up gathering more,” he added. “In 2013, we fought our first Delhi election, 2014, we fought 400 seats for the Lok Sabha, 2015, we fought Delhi elections for the second time, 2017, we fought Punjab, Goa as well as the MCD elections, and well, 2018-19, we fought Karnataka and the Lok Sabha as well,” Reddy told ThePrint.
However, political analyst and psephologist Sanjay Kumar, the director of the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said the early spikes in donations symbolised the hope associated with the AAP, which came on the scene as the frustrated Indian voter’s answer to endemic corruption.
“For people who aren’t residing in the city where the party is in power, the easiest way to show support is by giving money and, hence, you would see the maximum coming from Mumbai and other places too,” Kumar said.
The party’s deviation from some of its promises, as also its style of operating in power, could answer the downward trend in donations, he added.
Over 90% cashless transactions, claims AAP
The source of political funding remains one of the most controversial flashpoints of contemporary politics.
However, the AAP claims that 92.42 per cent of their donations are received through banks, while only a mere 7.58 per cent comes in cash. The sources of all donations, it says, are known.
Members of the AAP outreach team say the bulk of their donations are received from the working or salaried class.
Even so, the AAP’s record on this count has not been without controversy. In 2018, the AAP refused to list donors on its website citing concerns about their privacy and safety.
Last January, the Central Board of Direct Taxes found an alleged mismatch of Rs 13 crore in the party’s actual and reported donations in 2014-15.
Consequently, on 11 September, the Election Commission (EC) served a showcause notice to the party, seeking an explanation within 20 days.
A member of the AAP said the party got back to the EC with a “1,000-page explanation”, but hadn’t heard from the poll panel since. According to the member, the allegation was primarily a bid to harass the party.
The AAP’s donation figures also differ from those recorded by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the non-profit watchdog for poll probity.
Every party is supposed to report donations of over Rs 20,000 to the EC and the ADR trawls through this data to estimate the funds received by each one.
According to ADR data for 2016-17, the AAP registered a four-fold rise in donations received over the previous year — from Rs 6.61 crore to Rs 30.78 crore. However, the party’s own accounts show a rise of around 217 per cent or three fold.
When asked about the difference in the figures, Reddy said, “We must understand that ADR doesn’t ask questions from the donors and goes by the data based on the Election Commission report. I reach out to donors and ask for their (income tax) returns, which gives a more accurate picture.”
Fundraising plans ahead of assembly polls
As the party gears up for the assembly polls next year, the outreach team is once again looking at innovative methods to raise funds for the party.
The party’s fundraising team will be holding a couple of conferences in Delhi and Bengaluru, while its young members will build engagement through digital fundraising campaigns on social media, including advertisements on Facebook.
A crowdfunding effort is likely to be kicked off next month as well.
Then there are the party’s webinars or web seminars, a regular affair that continues to be held every Saturday at 5 pm. The webinars involve a leader of the party engaging with online viewers who register for the event.
Later, the outreach team gets in touch with viewers for feedback. Senior members of the party said webinars were a way for the party to connect with AAP supporters overseas, many of whom are prospective donors.
Larger events with trade and industrialists are also in the pipeline.
“We are fighting with very little or no resources compared to our opponents,” said Reddy. “We spend on 70 seats what other party candidates spend on one seat.”
However, members of the AAP outreach team did tell ThePrint that gathering donations often proved to be a task because many Indian voters see their contribution as a quid-pro-quo arrangement or protection money.
“We (AAP party set-up) don’t interfere in influencing the government system, so, therefore, if an AAP supporter’s driver wants to get his child admitted in school, approaching an MLA won’t work since all our admissions happen online and there is transparency,” said Reddy.