New Delhi, May 23: The Congress is facing such a financial crisis that it could cripple the party’s ability to wrest power from the loaded Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019, said a report on Wednesday. According to Bloomberg, the Congress leadership hasn’t been sending the funds required to run its offices in various states, party officials with knowledge of the matter said, and hasn’t done so for the past five months. Asking not to be identified, the officials said that the party has urged the members to step up contributions and asked officials to cut expenses, they said. (Also read: Who’s The Richest Regional Party of Them All?)
The party’s flow of money from industrialists has almost dried up, leaving a cash crunch so serious that it’s been forced to crowd-fund for a candidate. “We don’t have money,” said Divya Spandana, as quoted by the website. She said since the party isn’t getting much funding via electoral bonds, a new method for cash donation to political parties, they may be forced to go for more online crowdsourcing. A big reason for this could be arch rival Narendra Modi’s string of electoral wins engineered along with BJP president Amit Shah. The saffron party rules with its allies in 20 states, several of them wrested from the Congress which now controls just two big states.
Big business has migrated away from the Congress, said Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow for South Asia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. “The BJP has a decisive fundraising advantage, not least because the Congress and other key regional parties are seen as less business-friendly.”
Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala declined to comment on the issue. The Congress earned one-fourth of the funds than the BJP in 2016-2017; it made Rs 2.25 billion compared to the BJP’s Rs 10.34 billion rupees during this period, revealed an Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) report. Waiting for a flight ticket for want of funds meant a senior leader couldn’t reach an eastern state in time to supervise elections there. The party’s campaign paled in comparison to the BJP’s in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya polls, an official said, noting it was one of the reasons it failed to gain power in those states. The curbs, said sources, were even on allowances for serving tea to guests at party offices.
The BJP spent double that of the Congress and is way ahead in attracting corporate donations. It received donations of Rs 7.05 billion from 2,987 corporates till March 2016, while Congress got Rs 1.98 billion from 167 business houses, according to ADR. During the 2014 general elections, the BJP collected Rs 5.88 billion rupees, while Congress got Rs 3.50 billion, said ADR, citing expenditure submitted by parties to Election Commission of India. A senior Congress official said the shortages were affecting both election campaigning and organizational mobility.
Without campaign funds, Congress will face considerable hardship going into 2019, said Jagdeep Chhokar, founder and trustee of the ADR. “A party that does not have money will be at a disadvantage in Indian elections.” Political funding in India has long lacked transparency. “It is very unfortunate but money in large quantities is used — I should say abused — in Indian elections,” said Chhokar. “Parties use accounted and unaccounted money — a political party can legally spend any amount of money on elections. There is no limit.”
While the BJP has already moved into its newly-built, swanky headquarters in New Delhi, the new office of the Congress party is still under construction due to a lack of funds, said a source.