March 24, 2024

Unraveling of Electoral Bonds and its Criminal Underpinnings

Nilotpal Basu

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FOR the last ten years, the Modi government has unfailingly assumed a high moral ground against corruption. The first boast was on the ground that the BJP will change the paradigm and break from the past in taking corruption head-on. ‘Na khaunga, Na khane dunga’ was the prime minister's familiar refrain! It was then further refined that his role would be that of a vigilant watchman – ‘chowkidar’. The BJP’s propaganda machinery went into overdrive, claiming to be ruthless in dealing with corruption.

Of course, this projection betrayed a complete cluelessness about the nature of corruption in the contemporary world. Corruption today is not a question of personal traits, but its real nature is systemic. It arises out of neoliberal economic policies where the State itself is not bound by accountability towards citizens but to the dynamics of the market and the corporates whose only accountability is towards the shareholders of their respective corporate entities. Obviously, this corporate freedom needed constant facilitation from the State. Therefore, it was impossible to fight corruption without defending the rights of the citizens. All that was glossed over with demagogy for an abstract commitment to ‘hard work’, as opposed to ‘Harvard’ and its intellectual attributes.

This was a ruse to protect and secure the interests of corporate cronies who would disproportionately benefit from such a course of action. It was also clear that the games of such corporates would enrich the BJP and its allies, and the principle of quid pro quo would be all-pervasive in defining the direction of the government. The catchphrase dished out by the slogan-mongering regime was ‘minimum government and maximum governance’; no tax burden on the corporates and ensuring the freedom to earn profits. The electoral bond scheme was introduced to extract a part of this State-sponsored facilitation for the ruling party. Therefore, from day one, we had described this process as the legalisation of political corruption. It is heartening that the facts and data that are exploding lifting the veil of secrecy vindicate our initial assertion and the relentless principled struggle that we have waged. The SC directed disclosure of alphanumericals of bonds bought and received will actually leave nothing for imagination.


The brute majority of the government had been deployed in full force to stonewall every concern when the EB scheme was aggressively pursued. The claim that electoral bonds would be instrumental for cleansing campaign finance, always considered as the key question in any parliamentary democracy, has now come unstuck. Without even defining, not to speak of regulating, the source of electoral funding and a similar absence of any regulatory oversight on its end-use, it was tailor-made for manipulation and misuse. All critical arguments against the scheme were bulldozed.

Therefore, the Supreme Court was the last resort for those who understood the criminal implications of the scheme. In the course of the court proceedings, it has become abundantly clear that the government's only consideration was to keep the nature of funding insulated from public scrutiny. Focusing on the anonymity or confidentiality of the donor and the recipient has become clear. Obviously, this denied the people the right to information on who donates how much and to whom. In fact, two more facts have also become clear: that the donations were not anonymous as far as the recipient political parties are concerned; it is only anonymous so far as keeping the information inaccessible for public scrutiny. The complete freedom to corporate donors makes it clear that despite claims of cleansing campaign finance, the nondisclosure could be used by perpetrators of economic offenses. Therefore, the historic verdict of the Supreme Court has lifted the veil of anonymity, in keeping with the individual's right to information. Therefore, the Supreme Court order upholding its fundamental tenet of the constitution and the consequent direction to SBI to share the entire data for electoral bonds in the public domain through the ECI is now bringing out facts which are proving to be so damaging for the BJP, so much so that the chief architect of the operation of the scheme, Amit Shah, has now in defense come out with fictitious calculations to claim that the opposition has benefited. This is a misplaced ploy to confuse the people who increasingly realise that BJP has been the overwhelmingly principal beneficiary of this scheme. All others who have received funds have incidentally benefited. Other aspects of the Supreme Court order have also highlighted the amount of finances received by the BJP had to be disproportionately many times more than all other political parties. This meant that the basic constitutional ground of election laws ensuring a level playing field stands completely undermined.

This historic verdict has completely unsettled the BJP’s battle for hegemony in deciding the narrative for the election. Therefore, what has been witnessed is an outright course of fraud and deception enacted through the SBI to delay, if not to deny information on the identity of donors and recipients. This virtually amounted to contempt of the court order, and the apex court has had to intervene twice to ensure that the order of February 15th is implemented to the last letter and spirit.

The overall picture is clear about who have really benefited. But the exact contours need to be further clarified. Of whatever data has come out, certain preliminary facts stand out; that the electoral bond scheme would open up for money laundering, the use of government agencies through central agencies like Income Tax, ED, and the CBI for securing the interest of the ruling party, the consolidation of quid pro quo and protection of financial wrongdoing. All that is rotten in the paradigm of governance that the Modi government has come to represent in the last decade have come together in this one scheme, and the facts are there for all to see and draw conclusions.


The inception of the electoral bond removed the user ceiling of 7.5 per cent of the profits of corporate funding. The scheme also removed the scope of foreign companies from electoral funding through the freedom offered to Indian subsidiaries of global corporations. The industry bodies who are claiming that this order for disclosing the identity of corporate donors is bad for corporate confidence must understand how hypocritical this claim is. Funding beyond 7.5 per cent of the profits in the first place smacks of the destruction of transparent corporate functioning and contravened shareholder interest. The extent of possible money laundering is brought out by the accompanying tables.

Top loss-making, but bond-buying firms


Bonds purchased

Total loss from 2019-20-2022-23


Bharti Airtel Ltd


Rs 65,239 cr


PRL Developers


Rs 1,139 cr


Bright Star Invest Private Ltd.


Rs. 574 cr


Pegasus Properties Pvt Ltd


Rs 60 cr


Prestige Projects


Rs 16 cr


Chandrajyoti Estate Developers


Rs 12 cr



ABNL Investment Ltd.


Rs 1 cr


InterGlobe Aviation Ltd





NSL Renewable Power Ltd


Rs. 285 cr


Greenko Rayala Wind Power Pvt Ltd


Rs 68 cr



The preliminary data as supplied by SBI and published by the Election Commission, when subjected to the record of the Modi regime's specific deployment of IT/ED/CBI raids, is discernible in the chronology of purchase and donation of electoral bonds. The pattern is clear. Raids are conducted by the central agencies which led to coughing out of ‘bond purchases’ leading to the subsequent silence of these agencies. For them, the purchase and donation of bonds was an avenue for escaping hostile action of these agencies.

The biggest buyer of electoral bonds, Future Gaming and Hotels Private Limited, has spent Rs 1368 crores between October 2020 and January 2024. In 2019, ED had launched a money laundering investigation against the company and attached their assets from April 2022 to May 2023. Between April and December 2022, they bought electoral bonds. Raids were also conducted on their properties owned by the promoter and close relatives in September 2022 and April 2023. In the corresponding period, they bought bonds worth Rs 303 crores.


The purchase of bonds from available data reveals certain very precise linkages on the question of quid pro quo, the securing of government contracts and tinkering with policies have resulted in substantial bond purchases.

Infrastructure and construction have emerged as major contributors to the electoral bonds. One of the top contributors is Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited. They have won major government projects, including Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project in Telangana, being built at a cost of Rs 1.15 lakh crores. Maharashtra-based Qwik Supply Chain Pvt Ltd which bought bonds worth Rs 410 crores is linked to some of the Reliance group of companies. Haldia Engineering Energy Ltd bought bonds for Rs 395 crores, while Vedanta Ltd of Anil Aggarwal contributed Rs 386 crores. Most of these entities have benefited from the award of big government projects.


Perhaps one of the most gruesome aspects of the transaction of electoral bonds seems to be the one where the pharmaceutical industry has sought concessions from the government. 35 pharmaceutical companies in India have contributed nearly Rs 1000 crores through electoral bonds. Of these, at least seven companies were being investigated for poor quality drugs when they purchased the bonds. Drug regulation is just one aspect where the industry seeks concession from the government. Firms could also be looking for cheap lands, tax exemptions, favorable policies, or removal of price caps.

Hetero Labs and Hetero Health Care bought electoral bonds for Rs 39 crores in April 2022. In the preceding month, Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration issued six notices to the company for substandard drugs. Three of these concern Remdesivir, an antiviral drug widely used to treat Covid-19. Torrent Pharma bought electoral bonds worth Rs 77.5 crores between May 19 and January 2024. They also have a record of failing drug quality tests. Ciders Health Care purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 29 crores between 2022 and 2023. They also had a record of failing in their manufactured product. Glenmark received five notices for substandard drugs between 2022 and 2023. Pharmaceutical companies received Rs 9.75 crores of electoral bonds. Cipla received four show cause notices for their drug between 2018 and 2022. Since 2019, it has purchased bonds worth Rs 39.2 crores.

The list could go on and on. If there is anonymity of donation to hands which matter, nothing could be more heinous.


The joint application of three apex industry bodies, FICCI, CII, and Assocham, was sought to be raised in the Supreme Court after the court had decided on the matter. Their application was aimed to stop the disclosure of corporate donors through the bond scheme. The main contention was to hide behind the assertion that a post facto change in the condition for disclosure would hurt business confidence. The fact that these questions had been resolved in the long-drawn arguments provided by the Supreme Court's February 15th order was of no consequence for the apex organisations of the corporates. In fact, their attempt to block disclosure drew sharp criticism from the highest court. This joint application only underlined their acute discomfiture, oblivious to the deleterious impact it would have on the fundamental right of information and the electoral level playing field.

In addition to the industry bodies, the RSS also came out quite explicitly against the Supreme Court judgment and defended the electoral bond scheme. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale argued that the scheme is just an 'experiment' and 'questions are raised when new things come up.'

What is now clear is that these desperate attempts by corporate and communal forces to try and defend the government’s scheme, which, as opposed to cleansing political funding, was essentially aimed at disproportionately benefiting BJP. This has resulted in facilitating all kinds of financial and administrative corrupt practices. These desperate attempts only underline the setback that the corporate-communal nexus has suffered in the judicial intervention on the electoral bond scheme.

The historic verdict of the apex court has opened up a major platform of resistance against attempts by the corporate-communal nexus to undermine the constitutional right of the people to exercise their voting rights on a level playing field. The landmark decision on February 15th also signifies a significant setback for the corporate-communal nexus-driven BJP-led government's efforts to control the narrative for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

There are already maneuvers by the BJP behemoth to obscure and misinform voters through dominance in the corporate media, mainstream media, and, of course, the social media space. Unless the opposition can effectively convey the findings of the apex court to the grassroots level, this victory in restoring some of the fundamental principles of the constitution cannot be consolidated. This challenge will be a crucial aspect in the people’s battle to defeat the BJP in the elections.



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