Decode Politics: Congress, crowdfunding, and the Mahatma | Political Pulse News


The Congress on Monday kicked off its “Donate for Desh” online crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The party is entering 2024 having won Assembly polls in Karnataka, Telangana, and Telangana and having ceded Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan to the BJP. It also failed to make a mark in four Northeast states and Madhya Pradesh among the other states that went to polls this year.

With the party appearing to struggle to get its message across in the state polls and the BJP far outstripping its rivals when it comes to fundraising, the crowdfunding campaign comes at a crucial juncture for the party.

What’s the Congress fundraiser?

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge will launch the campaign in Delhi on Monday. It will continue till December 28 to mark the 138th foundation day of the party. To commemorate the milestone, the party has asked for donations that are a minimum of Rs 138 or multiples like Rs 1,380 or Rs 13,800 and so on from those who are 18 years and older. The party claims this will be the “biggest crowdfunding” campaign by any party in India.

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After the online phase of the campaign concludes, the party plans to launch ground-level campaigns, including door-to-door visits, to solicit donations from at least 10 households in every booth.

Festive offer

The party has also announced a “mammoth rally” in Nagpur on December 28 that Congress office-bearers, leaders, and workers from across the country are expected to attend. In 2018, too, the Congress launched an “outreach-cum-crowdfunding” campaign ahead of the last general elections, but the campaign did not gain much momentum on the ground.

What was Tilak Swaraj Fund?

The Congress has said its campaign is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s historic “Tilak Swaraj Fund”, which was launched at the party’s December 1920 session in Nagpur in the memory of freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak who died in August that year. The fund was intended to raise money for the Non-Cooperation Movement to secure “swaraj” or self-governance.

Launched from Bombay, the campaign ran from April to June 1921 with the target of raising Rs 1 crore – including Rs 60 lakh from Bombay and Rs 40 lakh from the rest of the country. By the end of June, the fundraiser proved a success having exceeded the Rs 1-crore target.

What is the state of Congress’s finances?

As per the most recent disclosures to the Election Commission, no national or regional party recognised by the poll body is even close to matching the BJP in terms of finances.

From Rs 781 crore in 2013-’14, when the BJP came to power at the Centre, its assets reached Rs 6,047 crore in 2021-’22, as per the latest year for which Income-Tax returns are available. That put the BJP’s assets at almost eight times the Congress’s, and more than double the income of all the national parties combined.

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The Congress’s assets, in contrast, remained largely stuck at the same level – rising from Rs 767 crore in 2013-’14 to Rs 929 crore in 2019-20, and falling to Rs 806 crore in 2021-’22. In terms of income, including from public donations and electoral bonds, the Congress earned Rs 541 crore in 2021-’22. The BJP, meanwhile, earned Rs 1,917 crore.

Decoding Politics

Why has BJP criticised it?

The BJP attacked the Congress after it announced the fundraiser, terming it “another attempt to siphon off public money and enrich the Gandhis”. It pointed to the record-high cash seizures by the Income Tax Department from premises linked to Congress MP Dhiraj Sahu.

On X, the BJP’s IT Cell in-charge Amit Malviya posted on Saturday, “Don’t be fooled by Congress’s lofty talk of this crowdsourcing being inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s historic Tilak Swaraj Fund. They will tarnish both the Mahatma and Tilak. All the hard earned money people donate, if they do, will go to the Gandhis, who will continue to enjoy the good life.”

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