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Did EC help BJP backdate their Donation Report to help it get tax exemption?

Arti Ghargi

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EC

When HW News checked the EC website at around 11 AM on Monday, the date of filing was July 27, 2018. However, at around 4 PM the date had been updated to October 31, 2018.

 

The free and fair elections are one of the foundation stones of a robust democracy. In India, the responsibility of conducting elections lies with the Election Commission of India. In the recent times, the institution has come under severe criticism with opposition party leaders alleging that the election commission is working under the influence of the ruling BJP. Though, the election commission has dismissed the allegations, time and again questions were raised on the credibility of the institution.

One such recent revelation made by an RTI activist has only added to the growing suspicion. According to a report, Madhya Pradesh-based RTI activist Ajay Dubey sent an email to the Election Commission and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on November 18, 2018. In the email, Dubey complained against the ruling BJP and 30 other parties for not submitting their contribution report even after the deadline i.e. October 31. A day later, Dubey met Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat in Bhopal and submitted 5 pages long elaborated complaint. In the complaint letter, Dubey cited the information available on the EC website and said that according to the updates of November 1, 2018, BJP and 30 other political parties have failed to submit the Contribution Report (CR) within the prescribed time limit. In light of this, quick action should be taken.

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What followed after his complaint definitely raises eyebrows! According to Dubey, on November 19, the link to the contribution report on the website was disabled. However, the very next day, the contribution report of BJP appeared on the website. Surprisingly, the date of filing mentioned on the website was July 27, 2018. Moreover, the date mentioned on the documents submitted by the BJP is October 31. The quick and almost shoddy developments in the issue after Dubey’s complaint led to a strong suspicion whether there has been a meddling in the process of filing Contribution Report of BJP? Was the report backdated? It also begs us question whether EC is also party to it?

Further, an NDTV report points out to the many parts of the reports which beg a question whether there has been a procedural change to enable BJP to file their Contribution report even after the set deadline.

But let us first know what is a Contribution Report and why political parties have to file it with Election Commission of India.

 

 What is a Contribution Report?

The political parties are expected to submit an annual report to the Election Commission of India listing the donations above rupees 20000 that they have received. This report is called a ‘Contribution/ Donation Report’. Talking to HW News, Laxmi Sriram who works with the Association of Democratic Reforms said that the donation report (Contribution Report) that the political parties file with the EC is not mandatory. “They (Political Parties) are required to submit the copies of the donation report before the due date of filing of their IT returns. And only if they file their donation report they get a 100% tax exemption. Even if it says in one line that they have not received donations above rupees 20,000 that is considered valid,” she said.

EC

Image Source: eci.gov.in

Upon receipt of these documents, the EC sends a letter to the Income Tax Department confirming that particular party has submitted their Donation report. In case the political party does not file a donation report within the stipulated period, ECI sends three reminders to the president or the treasurer of the political party. “In case, the party does not respond to the reminders, it is not further pursued by the EC,” Ms Laxmi said.

However, a scrutiny of the Donation reports of the political parties indicates that a different route of procedure seems to have been followed for BJP.

The process followed by ECI for the filing of documents?

When a political party submits the contribution report to the EC, the details are first recorded on the R & I section (reception section). The date and the diary number is entered on the cover of the report followed by a stamp. The Report is then sent to the Political Participation Expenditure Monitoring Section (PPEMS). Here, again a date and diary number are entered on the cover and stamp of the PPEMS section is put up.

However, the Contribution Report filed by the BJP only has the stamp by PPEMS. The initial stamp along with the R & I entry is not registered on the document. So was the initial step in the procedure of filing of Contribution report skipped for BJP? Why did other political parties go through the two layers of registration?

ECI

Image Source: eci.gov.in

Ajay Dubey, the RTI activist talking to HW News said, “The report being directly sent to the DG expenditure and the website going down after the complaint, raises suspicion.” The election commission should issue a clarification on what is the truth, he demanded.

According to the NDTV report, the BJP also hasn’t submitted certificates from the companies it has received donations from which mandatory under section 182 of the Companies Act.

Was the report backdated to help BJP get tax exemption?

 If the Contribution report of BJP was submitted on November 20 (days after the deadline), the party clearly does not qualify to get a tax exemption as per the provisions of Representative of people Act, 1951. On the other hand, another provision of the act (Section 29 C) says that only if the parties file their tax returns and Contribution report before the given deadline, they will be eligible for the tax exemption.

EC

Image Source: eci.gov.in

The BJP, in the year 2016-2017 declared an income of Rs 1,034 crore which is the highest among all the political parties in India. The donation to the party from unknown sources only amounted to rupees 710 crores. Not filing contribution report on time means BJP would have to lose out on the tax exemption.

So, was the report backdated to help BJP get tax exemption?

What HW News found?

To verify the claims, HW News checked the website of Election Commission of India. The information column at the right of BJP’s contribution report section showed the date of filing. Here’s where things get a little murky. When HW News checked the website at around 11 AM in the morning, the date of filing was July 27, 2018. However, at around 4 PM when we checked the website again, the date had been updated to October 31, 2018. Was this an error? If it was why did the ECI not clear it after making the corrections?

EC

Image Source: eci.gov.in

The rather prompt and surprising developments in the case not only need a clarification from the Election Commission but also from the BJP. It will definitely put a question mark on the credibility of the ECI if it fails to answer the questions!

Politics

BJP releases list of 18 candidates for Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh assembly election

Anil Rajpurohit

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New Delhi | The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) today released a list of 18 candidates for the the upcoming legislative assembly elections in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

In a released statement, BJP has announced 12 candidates for Sikkim while 6 candidates for the assembly election in Arunachal Pradesh.

Assembly election for the 60 member legislative assembly in Arunachal Pradesh and 32 member legislative assembly in Sikkim will be held on April 11.

BJP’s Prem Khandu is the current chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh. In the last assembly elections BJP won 36 seats in the state and formed government with 16 MLAs of National People’s Party and 2 independents.

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2019 Lok sabha polls: BJP yet to release its first candidate list

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Amit Shah; BJP

New Delhi| The BJP’s central election committee (CEC) met Wednesday for a third time to deliberate on the names of its candidates for the Lok Sabha elections and is believed to have finalised candidates for most of the seats going to the polls in the initial few phases.

 

It has so far not released any list of candidates for the seven-phase polls starting from April 11.

 

The party is likely to field Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, R K Singh and Giriraj Singh from Patna Sahib, Arrah and Begusarai seats in Bihar respectively.

 

It may repeat Union ministers V K Singh and Satyapal Singh from their seats in western Uttar Pradesh. In Odisha, the party is considering fielding its spokesperson Sambit Patra and its vice president Baijayant Panda, sources said.

 

While the party is set to drop a sizeable number of its sitting MPs from UP to take on the formidable SP-BSP alliance, it is set to bank on its sitting members in Bihar.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to recontest from Varanasi and the party is also deliberating on whether to field him from one more seat.

 

The CEC, whose meeting was attended by Modi, party president Amit Shah and its other members, held a long meeting with top BJP leaders from Uttar Pradesh. It later met leaders from other states.

 

The party sources said names of candidates for a large number of seats is final and could be announced soon.

 

On Tuesday evening, the CEC had held a seven-hour-long discussion to deliberate upon the names of the party’s candidates in various states.

 

Though the Congress has announced candidates for 146 Lok Sabha constituencies so far, the BJP is yet to officially make any announcement on its nominees.

 

The sources in the party suggested that most of the ministers in the Union Cabinet, who are sitting Lok Sabha MPs, are likely to be fielded from same seats.

 

On Tuesday, the party had announced that it will drop its all 10 incumbent MPs from Chhattisgarh and replace them with new faces, a decision that comes in the wake of the party’s drubbing in the recent assembly elections. The state’s former chief minister Raman Singh may not contest elections, the sources said.

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Nirav Modi’s arrest a got-up match: Mamata

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mamata

 

Kolkata| West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday refused to give credit to the Narendra Modi government for the arrest of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, saying it was a “got-up match” and the arrest may have been fixed by the Centre beforehand.

Talking to reporters here, she termed the development a “strike” by the Modi government to reap electoral dividend.

 

Nirav Modi (48), the main accused in the USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank scam case, was arrested in London and was on Wednesday remanded to custody there till March 29. He has been absconding from the country for over a year.

 

“I think the Nirav Modi arrest is a got-up match. It is one of the ‘strikes’ by the Modi government to reap electoral dividends. I have been told by some people that two to three more such ‘strikes’ are in the offing and will take place in between the seven phases of Lok Sabha polls,” Banerjee said.

 

Stating that the Modi government should not claim any credit for the arrest of the fugitive, the Trinamool Congress supremo said, “One journalist of a UK media found out where he stayed. What were the government agencies doing all these times?

 

“Those hiding behind the curtains please come out, your game is up,” she added.

 

Stating that the Modi government was past its “expiry date”, the chief minister said, “They are branding those asking uncomfortable questions as ‘traitors’. We are not traitors, we are protectors, we love the country. But you (Narendra Modi) are selling off the country by shielding the corrupt.”

 

In a dig at Modi for addressing ‘chowkidars’ (watchmen)over the radio and calling himself one, Banerjee said, “From ‘chaiwala’ (tea seller), he has now turned into a chowkidar. But the true chowkidar does not flaunt such fashionable dresses.”

 

She also criticised the Modi government for announcing projects just before the announcement of the parliamentary elections.

 

“When the unemployment figures in the country have reached its highest level in 45 years, when two crore people have lost jobs in recent times, he is promising the moon to the people of the country. The people are not fools,” she said.

 

The TMC leader said the condition of blue chip public sectors like Air India and BSNL have deteriorated, while the farmers are in distress and dying.

 

“Demonetisation ripples are still being felt, but Narendra Modi is making tall claims at meetings after meetings,” she said.

 

Demonetisation was announced in November 2016.

 

Accusing Modi of playing the religion card ahead of the polls, Banerjee said, “We see him attending meetings with a ’tilak’ on his forehead,” referring to his recent address in Varanasi.

 

She had on Tuesday lashed out at the BJP for questioning her religion and challenged the prime minister and BJP president Amit Shah to compete with her in chanting ‘mantras’ (hymns).

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