When the Aam Aadmi Party stormed into Indian political scenario, it arrived with a promise of changing the way political parties operate in India. It promised complete honesty and transparency in its operations, and most people believed in it. One the innovative thing the party did was to publish a list of donations it receives on its website, as a proof of transparent nature of its financial activities.
But it didn’t take long for the halo around the party to disappear. Soon, there were allegations that the party was receiving donations from dubious sources. At the core of the allegation was regarding a donation of ₹2 crore. A breakaway faction of the party, AAP Volunteer Action Manch (AVAM) had claimed that the party had received four cheques worth ₹50 lakh each from four different questionable companies. All those four donations were entered into the donation list at 12 am on April 5, 2014. It was found that the addresses of the four companies were fake, they had the same set of directors and they had no known business.
At that time, other than the official donation list on the AAP website, another independent website www.aaptrends.com was also following donations to the party. It was run by one AAP volunteer. But in the second week of April 2014, the site was suddenly shut down, creating questions among people including AAP supporters.
And towards the year 2016, the party removed the donation list for its website. During that time, the webpage for the list was still there, but it showed a message “under construction. New Version coming soon..”. But that new version never came, and now the link shows a page not found error, means the page has been removed from the site altogether.
It was reported that the page listed many donations above ₹ 20,000, but those were not reported to the Election Commission as per rules, and thus the party removed the list itself from public domain.
This removal of the donation list was questioned by many people, including Yogendra Yadav and Anna Hazare. Former party member Yadav had alleged that the party was collecting cash donations which were not recorded.
Rebel AAP member Kapil Mishra also had alleged that the party was not revealing its total funding to the election commission and Income Tax department.
When Income Tax department checked the documents of the party, they found that the party was indeed hiding some of the receipts. There mismatch between credits to the bank account of the party and the amount disclosed by the party to the department. In 2014-15, disclosed amount was ₹13.16 crore less than the received amount. The department also had found money from Hawala operators, and there were discrepancies in its donation report, which the party had changed after pointing out the same. Based on this report by the I-T department, the EC had issued a show cause notice to the party.
During all those controversies, the party’s public donation drive had taken a backseat. But as elections come closer, AAP has restarted its online donation campaign. On Monday they launched a campaign titled ‘Aap Ka Daan, Raashtra Ka Nirmaan’.
They have relaunched their donation page on their website, but with a significant change. They have changed the web address for the page, it was donate.aamaadmiparty.org earlier, but now it is donations.aamaadmiparty.org. Along with standalone donations, the party now have provided the option of monthly donations also.
आप का दान, राष्ट्र का निर्माण
To Donate Monthly, Give a Missed Call on 9871010101
— Aam Aadmi Party Delhi (@AAPDelhi) October 15, 2018
Informing about the new fund-raising drive, AAP leader Gopal Rai in a press briefing said that the party is faced with a resource crunch and it needs the money to continue its operations. Under the campaign, the party will go door-to-door and ask people to contribute a minimum amount of ₹ 100 per month.
It is important to note that the cloud around the party’s fund collection earlier still remains. The party has not offered any satisfactory explanation for huge discrepancies in its donation records, neither they have answered why the donation list page was removed and never re-introduced on their website. The Income Tax investigation on its funding activities is not completed yet. And without clearing its name from serious allegations about fundraising activities, the party has decided to launch a fresh donation collection drive.