Firm Managing Delhi Airport Among Top Donors to an Electoral Trust Which Gave Lion’s Share to BJP

Since 2018, GMR group has been one of the top contributors to the Prudent Electoral Trust, which, in turn, has been directing the largest portion of its funds to the BJP. 

New Delhi, June 29, dmanewsdesk: GMR group, the company which runs the Delhi airport including the Terminal 1 – which is in the news today since the partial collapse of its roof led to a death — has funded the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through an electoral trust since 2018.

GMR’s funding of the ruling party has been through an indirect route. Since 2018, the company has been one of the top contributors to the Prudent Electoral Trust, which, in turn, has been directing the largest chunk of its funds to the BJP. 

The key difference between electoral bonds and electoral trusts is that while bonds could until earlier this year be bought anonymously by individuals and corporate entities only during specific windows, electoral trusts can take contributions all year round. The trusts forward the money which is donated to them to political parties. There is also a public record of who has contributed what to which electoral trust. While the electoral bonds scheme was introduced by the Narendra Modi government, the electoral trust scheme was brought by the Congress, in 2013, and also allows corporate houses to claim tax exemption through such donations. 

While GMR does not feature in the list of electoral bond donors released by the Election Commission, public records show that the company has been indirectly funding the BJP – the biggest beneficiary of the electoral bond scheme – through the Prudent Electoral Trust, the biggest and richest of the 15 electoral trusts.

According to an April 2024 Reuters report which reviewed public records, this March, Prudent had raised $272 million since its creation in 2013, “funnelling roughly 75% of that to prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP”.

The report said, “While Prudent does not disclose how donations made by individual corporate donors are distributed, Reuters used public records from 2018 to 2023 to track flows from some of India’s largest companies. Eight of India’s biggest business groups donated at least $50 million in total between 2019 and 2023 to the trust, which then issued cheques for corresponding amounts to the BJP, according to the Reuters analysis.”

Four companies whose transactions were identified by Reuters were ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel, Bharti Airtel, Essar and GMR. It underlined that these companies “have not given money to the party directly and do not appear on its donors’ list.”

On being asked how Prudent determines how its donations are distributed to parties, a GMR spokesman had told Reuters that Prudent decides “as per their internal guidelines, which we are unaware of”. 

The report had it that he added that the company does not “like to align with any political party.”

However, going by public records, it seems that when a corporate entity or an individual contributes funds to Prudent, it is most likely to be contributing to the BJP. Even though Prudent donates money to to other parties too, the Reuters report had shown that the largest portion of its collections go to the BJP’s coffers. 

ADR reports

Prudent features as BJP’s biggest donor according to Association for Democratic Reforms’ (ADR’s) year-by-year analysis of electoral trusts. In ADR’s report on electoral trust for 2018-19, Prudent is mentioned as the only trust which declared to the Election Commission its contributions since the financial year 2013-14. That report said that GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited made the largest contribution – Rs 25 crore – out of all corporate and individual donors to electoral trusts in 2018-19. 

As per ADR, Prudent had donated Rs 67.25 crore to the BJP in 2018-18 year and Rs 154.30 crore in the financial year before that.

In ADR’s subsequent study for 2019-20, too, BJP was seen to be the biggest beneficiary of the trust scheme, having pocketed 76% of the declared contributions by the trusts. Prudent Electoral Trust donated Rs 217.75 crore to the BJP in 2019-20. It also added that Prudent’s major stakeholders are the GMR Group, Bharti Airtel, DLF and Apollo Tyres. 

ADR’s 2021-2022 analysis showed that the Prudent’s largest chunk of corporate funding went to the BJP with a donation of Rs. 336.509 crore. Of this total, Rs 20 crore came from GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd. The pattern continued in 2022-23 too, with Prudent receiving Rs 360 crores of corporate funding. That year, BJP had pocketed Rs 259.08 crores through electoral trusts, of which Rs 256.25 crore came from Prudent alone. 

The Reuters report on Prudent funnelling most of its funds to the BJP came a month after Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the expanded integrated terminal 1 at the Delhi airport. Celebrating the revamp in March, the Delhi airport’s website had said, “Terminal 1 is not merely a symbol of progress but an embodiment of sustainability. “ 

“Delhi airport’s Phase 3A expansion, a monumental endeavour, positioned Terminal 1 as a symbol of cutting-edge design and engineering”. 

The GMR Airports Infrastructure Limited-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) had undertaken the expansion work of the airport in 2019. In addition to the ADR analysis, BJP’s own submission to the EC in 2019 had mentioned Prudent as a major contributor to the party. An India Today report at the time had underlined, “The Prudent Electoral Trust has Bharti Enterprises, GMR Airport Developers and DLF Limited as its major donors.”

Source: The Wire