Mumbai: Joining forces with the Shiv Sena and the Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra in November 2019 has made the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) flush with funds, and also brought back to its doorstep an unusual donor.
In financial year 2019-20, Lodha Developers, a firm owned by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha, donated Rs 5 crore to the NCP, according to the party’s contribution report filed with the Election Commission. Political parties have to declare contributions of over Rs 20,000 to the Election Commission every year.
Overall, donations to the NCP surged nearly five times in 2019-20 to Rs 59.94 crore, from 12.05 crore the previous fiscal.
When reached for a comment, Lodha, five-time MLA and current president of the BJP’s Mumbai unit, said, “I don’t directly look after the business. You will have to get in touch with someone from the company.”
ThePrint tried reaching Lodha Developers through calls and text messages, but there was no response.
Nawab Malik, an NCP minister and president of its Mumbai unit, said: “The NCP is receiving donations that it gets. They are transparently put forth to the Election Commission. There is no reason for any suspicion around it.”
No contributions from Lodha Developers without power
The NCP was earlier allied only to the Congress, and the parties were in power together from October 1999 to October 2014, when the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis became chief minister in alliance with the Shiv Sena. This government lasted till the 2019 assembly elections.
Lodha Developers did not contribute to the NCP for any of the years when the party was out of power. In fact, the last time it donated to the NCP was in 2014-15, when it gave Rs 5 crore. Overall, the NCP got contributions of Rs 38.82 crore that year.
Besides, Palava Dwellers, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Lodha Group, too donated Rs 3 crore to NCP in 2014-15.
In the subsequent years, not only did the Lodha Group and its subsidiaries stay away, but the financial fortunes of the party also declined.
In 2015-16, the NCP declared Rs 71.38 lakh in donations above Rs 20,000 to the EC. In 2016-17, the year of civic elections in 10 major municipal corporations, including Mumbai and Pune, the NCP got Rs 6.34 crore.
In 2017-18 and 2018-19, the NCP got Rs 2.08 crore and Rs 12.05 crore, respectively.
Major industries, developers in list of donors
The NCP seemed to have been decimated after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, winning just four seats, the same as in 2014, despite party chief Sharad Pawar campaigning aggressively and addressing 78 rallies in the blistering heat.
However, over the next few months, an undeterred Pawar, 78 years old at the time, carried the party’s 2019 assembly election campaign on his own shoulders, and it ended up winning 54 seats, an improvement of 13 over 2014.
Throughout November 2019, the party was in the political limelight as Sharad Pawar tried to hammer out an alliance to take the centre stage. Meanwhile, an NCP faction led by his nephew Ajit Pawar joined hands with the BJP to form a Fadnavis-led government that was sworn in overnight but lasted all of three days. The NCP eventually joined hands with the Shiv Sena and the Congress on 28 November, when the MVA government headed by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in.
This sequence of events bolstered the political significance of the NCP, and seems to have helped fill its coffers.
Other than Lodha, several other developers and construction firms contributed to the NCP in 2019-20, including Magarpatta City Development, Kumar Properties, Panchshil Corporate Park, Kappa Realtors, B.G. Shirke Construction, Modern Road Makers and Pegasus Properties.
Several industries also donated heavily to the NCP, such as the Adar Poonawalla-owned Serum Institute of India (which contributed Rs 3 crore), Finolex Industries, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, Dhariwal Industries, and Dempo India Private Limited, among others.