Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, had the highest income among all regional parties in 2020-21 with ₹149.95 crore. This was ₹3 crore more than what YSR Congress and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the ruling parties of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, respectively, raised together.

These two parties had an income of ₹107.99 crore and ₹37.658 crore, respectively. A recent report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that analysed the wealth of regional parties shows that regionals party income typically jumps ahead of State elections.

A regional party is a recognised political party whose influence is limited to a particular State. The report says the total income of the 31 regional parties for FY21 was ₹529.416 crore. While DMK and YSR Congress made the most money in that period, Odisha’s ruling party, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), came third, with an income of ₹73.347 crore. Aam Aadmi Party, the ruling party in Delhi and Punjab, raised just ₹17.6 crore in FY21.

DMK’s income in FY21 was 139 per cent higher compared with FY20 when its income was ₹64.904 crore. YSR Congress’ wealth increased by 16.4 per cent to ₹107.99 crore. The highest income earner in FY20 was however, TRS, which raised ₹130.46 crore. Commenting on the report and the analysis, retired Major General Anil Verma, Head, ADR, said the income patterns of parties tend to vary from year to year. “As elections near, the incomes of political parties seem to peak,” he said. Right after ended, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry had their Assembly elections. Similarly, in FY 19, YSR Congress and BJD raised ₹181.08 crore and ₹249.31 crore, respectively. Both parties went on to win the elections which were held just a month after the fiscal ended.

The name is bond

Where is this money coming from though? DMK earned more than 75 per cent of its income from grants, donations and contributions. It earned another ₹23.12 crore through fees and subscriptions. All the other major earners — YSR Congress, BJD and Janata Dal United (JDU) — also made a majority of their earnings through grants and contributions. “As many as 16 out of 31 regional political parties collected more than 70 per cent of their total Income from grants/donations/contributions or voluntary donations/contributions,” the report .

“The worrisome thing is that a lot of these parties receive donations through electoral bonds,” he added. ADR had previously filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging electoral bonds, which allows anonymous donations. “Given the anonymity provided to donors by the scheme, it is seen that electoral bonds have emerged as the most popular mode of donations to regional political parties for FY21. More than 47.34 per cent of the total income (₹250.60 crore) of the 31 regional political parties analysed for FY21 is received from donations through electoral bonds,” the report noted.

Earn it, burn it

While DMK made the most money in FY 21, the party ended up spending almost double that, making it the biggest spender among regional parties. DMK’s declared expenditure was ₹218.9 crore. According to another report by ADR, in FY20, DMK had assets worth ₹184.24 crore and liabilities of ₹8.05 crore. However, in that financial year too, the party spent ₹6.13 crore more than its income. On the other hand, YSR Congress only spent 0.75 per cent of the money it made. BJD, too, managed to save ₹66.332 crore.

The other top spenders in FY 21 are N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Tamil Nadu’s major Opposition party All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). While TDP made ₹3.252 crore, it spent ₹54.769 crore. AIADMK, on the other hand, spent ₹42.367 crore and made ₹34.076 crore.