IT firms donate modest sums through electoral bonds – Times of India

by The Technical Blogs


BENGALURU: Compared to companies that gave large amounts – some even hundreds of crores of rupees – to political parties through electoral bonds, IT companies have given modest sums. Hyderabad-based engineering services firm Cyient is the largest donor, contributing Rs 10 crore last year, data from Election Commission of India shows.
Zensar Technologies contributed Rs 3 crore in 2019. Infosys contributed Rs 1 crore to Janata Dal (Secular) around the time the Karnataka assembly elections were held in 2018. Tech Mahindra has contributed Rs 1 crore.
Shriram Subramanian, founder of corporate governance firm InGovern Research Services, says Section 182 of the Companies Act requires companies to disclose contributions made to political parties. “Failure to disclose may entail fines up to five times the contribution and prison for defaulting officers,” he says.
An email sent to the four IT firms asking about the donations did not elicit a response till the time of going to the press.
Subramanian, however, does not agree with the move to disclose who contributed and how much to each party. He says electoral bonds were introduced to protect the identity of the donors, thus reducing the risk of intimidation or retaliation for their political affiliations. “The reality in India is that companies are expected to contribute to political parties to be in business. Most often, there is quid pro quo to the contributions. Politicians may use the data to arm twist companies,” he says.
Political funding is also made through what are called electoral trusts, which are intermediaries between corporates and political parties. The biggest of these is the Prudent Electoral Trust. In 2019, TCS had disclosed that it gave Rs 220 crore to an electoral trust. A recent Reuters report said that Tata Group’s Progressive Electoral Trust gave BJP Rs 360 crore.
Indian IT companies appear to spend more on lobbying expenditures in the US, their biggest market, than in India. Infosys, for instance, spent $340,000 on lobbying expenses in 2023 for issues focused on legislation, rulemaking, and policies with respect to non-immigrant visa, technology workforce training, skilling and upskilling programmes and policies, shows data from US research and transparency group It hired Dentons Global Advisors Government Relations as a lobby firm. In 2022, Wipro spent $90,000 on lobbying on issues including implementation of the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act and international travel regulations.


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