[30 March 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Bonds, big money, and an imperfect democracy

PYQ Relevance:Mains: 

Q) ‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss. (UPSC CSE 2017) 

Q) In light of the recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India?  (UPSC CSE 2018) 


Q) Under the Constitution of India, which one of the following is not a fundamental duty? (UPSC CSE 2011) 

a) To vote in public elections
b) To develop the scientific temper
c) To safeguard public property
d) To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals


Prelims: Polity; Elections;  Electoral Bonds Scheme;

Mains: Polity; Elections; Judicial Interventions;  Electoral Bonds Scheme;

Mentors Comment: Representative democracy is a political system in which citizens of a country vote for representatives to handle legislation on their behalf. But perhaps India too is in some doubtful situation when the debate revolves around the Election 2024 or our version of present democracy. Recently, we have been through various news discussions on the Electoral Bonds Scheme which was introduced to cut down illegal funds in Party Politics, and its Campaigning pillared on black money. However, beyond curbing the wrong actions, the Electoral Bond Scheme also has another side which is a threat to our Democratic principles. Today’s Editorial also works on the same topic.

Let’s learn. 

Why in the News?

The Recent Judgement passed by our Supreme Court on the Electoral Bonds Scheme needs to be revisited in the Political domain too. 

  • If this picture is seen from a broader perspective, in a well-functioning democracy, fighting an election would need neither extravagant funding nor Electoral Bonds to be bought in secrecy.


  • Elections continue to be fought with an increasingly larger amount of illegal funds being spent by political parties and candidates.
  • According to the SC the Electoral Bonds Scheme violates the Right to Information and Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. It can lead to quid pro quo. The court ruled that the amendment to the Companies Act which allows blanket corporate political funding is unconstitutional.
  • This was supposed to end the financing of elections with black money. If this had happened, Indian politics would have been transformed with great benefit to the nation. After all, illegal finance results in the control of politics subverting our Democracy. 

The gaps between the professed and the actual scenario of Indian politics:

  • Faraway from Democratic values: Elected leaders, usually serve the interests of those who finance their elections, and hardly represent the interests of their constituency. This gap between the professed and the actual undermines democracy since the government is no longer an entity ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’. 
  • Vested interests as national interests: The vested interests corner most of the gains from development. It is in the design of the policies the packaging is cleverly done to make policies appear to be in the national interest. 
  • Widening of the Rich-poor Gap: Concessions are granted to private businesses to provide basic services like Health and Education through the market which results in the inability of the poor to afford them while simultaneously leading to growing disparities. This also reduces the availability of resources to the public sector.

The Challenge of Money and the Election:

  • Representation issue: Voting is often not based on a candidate’s performance but on attributes such as caste, community, and region. Hence, political parties slice and dice the electorate along these lines. Vote banks are cultivated and the constituents are bribed just before an election.
  • Campaigning through illegal funds: Campaigning is conducted by paid workers and crowds are mobilized to attend rallies and meetings using money, transportation, and food. All this requires a lot of money far more than the permitted election expenditure limit of ₹95 lakh for a big parliamentary constituency. 
  • An issue with the Electoral Bonds Scheme: It enabled a bribe to be given in white for favors done. Since, only big businesses could contribute for big sums, their influence and manipulations were increased.
    • Secondly, the party obtaining funds could use them for all kinds of purposes and not necessarily for elections, such as setting up offices or destabilizing Opposition-led governments. Thus, the name electoral bonds was inappropriate.
  • Cronyism uncovered: The data show that funds were given to political parties for favors from policymakers; to escape prosecution for wrongdoing, and as an investment for the future. The data provided by the State Bank of India shows the quid pro quo in the case of some of the donations made. 

Way Forward:

  • Need for a level-playing field: The political parties should not discriminate based on their vote share popularity or religion. This will enable the smaller and regional parties to compete with the ruling party and the major opposition parties on an equal footing and offer a genuine choice to the voters.
  • Need to reduce Money Influence: There is a need to curb the influence of money and corporate power in politics. The donors should no longer be able to hide their identity and agenda behind the veil of anonymity.

Conclusion: The Electoral Bonds Scheme only highlights the growing weakness of Indian democracy. In a well-functioning democracy, where the political leadership is accountable, fighting an election would need neither big funding nor electoral bonds to be bought in secrecy. 


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