The coffers of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which led a coalition government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for ten years for two consecutive terms, seem to be empty.
Party president Sukhbir Singh Badal, a few days ago, issued a dictate to party leaders, MLAs, and former ministers to contribute Rs 5,000 each every month to manage party affairs and run its office. The party is considered one of the richest political parties in the country.
“There are about 150 of us in the party, who would contribute to make a total of over Rs 7 lakh per month, for the party,” SAD secretary Daljit Singh Cheema told HT. He remained education minister in the second tenure of the SAD-BJP government till March 2017. “I am sure party leaders would willingly contribute to the party fund,” said Cheema.
The SAD had exhausted coffers despite the fact that it received Rs 102 crore as donation from 2005 to 2015 as per the figures submitted to the Election Commission of India. The figures of donations of the two subsequent years up to 2017 were still to arrive.
“We have to spend a lot to run the party, we organise rallies, hold meetings and give advertisements in the media on behalf of the party, and it requires a lot of money,” said Cheema. The SAD has a luxurious office in Chandigarh and had hired staff to look after party affairs, which also required a lot of funds, said Cheema. The office became operational in 2009, and it required about Rs 5 lakh every month as running and maintenance expenses.
According to the party secretary, a major portion of the party’s reserves was spent during the state polls in January. During the polls, the party also received a huge amount as donations, the fate of which was not known. “The party’s chartered accountants are keeping records of each and every single paise it receives as donation,” said Cheema, clarifying that donations were not misused.
The party president has asked all former MLAs, MPs, and ministers and serving MLAs and MPs to contribute Rs 5,000 every month from their pensions and salaries. This is for the first time in the history of the SAD that donations were being sought from party leaders. A message was being sent to the donors that they have enjoyed power during the years of the Akali government and it would not be a problem for them to make a small contribution.
During ten years up to 2015, the SAD received donations from electoral funds, cement manufacturing companies, real estate developers and cycle manufacturing units which, sources say, can’t be expected now in the same quantity as it is not a ruling party.