Corporates and Common People in India’s ‘New Democracy’: The ‘raid’ and ‘red-carpet’ aspects of the electoral bond scheme/scam

Electoral Bond


In the contemporary world, democracy generally includes: citizens’ civil and political rights, including their freedom of speech and the right to know how state institutions operate; the principle of ‘one person one vote’; checks and balances within the state that stop excessive concentration of power in one institution or state-actor or a powerful politician; independence of the judiciary; restriction on state coercion against common people; and reasonably equal distribution of economic and social-political resources, including a level playing field among all political parties through which people express their opinions and interests, and so on.

Relative to pre-capitalist societies, the capitalist system is compatible with some democratic rights. But it mutilates democracy, when and to the extent that democracy, including common people demanding a better life and accountability from the state, goes against the business of money-making beyond a limit tolerable by that class. India’s electoral bond scheme (EBS) as a method of financing of political parties, exemplifies how democracy is restricted under capitalism.

An electoral bond is a financial instrument for making anonymous donations without limits to political parties. According to the EBS, introduced by the Indian government in 2018, an electoral bond is a bond issued in the nature of a promissory note. It effectively works like cash. As a bearer instrument, an electoral bond does not carry the name of the buyer or payee. No ownership information is recorded; the holder of the instrument (i.e. political party) is presumed to be its owner. There is no obligation of political parties to maintain a record of the identity of donors. The scheme allows individuals (who are citizens of India) and Indian companies as well as the subsidiaries of foreign companies, to donate electoral bonds to political parties of their choice, which have to redeem them within 15 days. A person being an individual can buy bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals. The bonds are issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh (= 100,000), Rs 10 lakh, and Rs 1 crore (=10 million).

Corporates, the main donors, have paid millions to the ruling parties at the Centre and at the State level. The BJP, whose government introduced the scheme, and which has become the favoured party of large sections of the bourgeoisie, has been the main beneficiary.[3] The three Left parties upholding the principle of political transparency as an important aspect of democracy have refused to participate in the scheme. One of the parties, Communist Party of India (Marxist), was in fact a petitioner in the top court against the scheme. In February, 2024, the scheme was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. However, the money received through the scheme has already funded one national election and many provincial ones during the 6 years of its existence. Not just that. It has allowed the BJP to strengthen itself and its supporting organizations: there is no guarantee that all the money received would not be used for non-electoral purposes (e.g. building offices).There are many aspects of the EBS. This article deals with one issue: what is the connection between the EBS on the one hand and the corporates and the common people on the other?


The level of economic inequality in India is proverbial. It has been growing in recent years, resulting in an entrenched billionaire raj (rule). Over 40% of the wealth created in India between 2012 and 2021, a time period that, more or less, coincides with the BJP regime, has gone to just 1% of the nation while a meagre 3% has trickled down to the bottom half. [4] The share of top 1% in the nation’s income has been rising since the last 1980s (when state control over the business-world began to be relaxed), and that of the bottom 50% has been falling. In 2022, India’s top 1% had control over more than 22% of the nation’s income while the bottom 50% had control over barely 15% (Bharti et al (2024).[5] The billionaire raj cannot but have an enormous influence on democracy where ruling parties introduce one pro-corporate policy after another.

The EBS is blatantly a pro-corporate scheme. Most of the donations are in the larger denominations (see Figure 1 below), so they are likely to have been made by the corporates in a nation where more than 86% of people live under $US 5.5 a day. Mr. Raju Ramchandran appearing for the petitioner CPI (Marxist) has said that the EBS is made to favour anonymous corporate funding into elections.[6] Indeed, 92.30% or Rs 6812 crore of the total value of bonds purchased were in the denomination of Rs 10 million indicating that these bonds are being purchased by corporates rather than ordinary individuals (Association for Democratic Reforms, 2021, Op. cit.). As Justice Khanna said, not only were overwhelming bulk of the electoral bond contributions from bonds with Rs 1 crore denominations but also overwhelming majority of recipients of the bonds were parties which were leading either at the central level or at the State level (Basu, 2024).[7] A large number of small unknown companies have donated 10 to 100 times their net profit via electoral bonds; many loss-making firms have also donated. It is quite likely that they are acting as fronts of big corporates in a process that involves money-laundering, i.e. making black money appear white, which is illegal, according to the 2002 Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Figure 1: Electoral bonds in the form of large-denomination Corporate donations (March 2018 to July 2021).

fig1 jpg

Source: Association for Democratic Reforms (2021)[8]

Why do corporates fund political parties? The capitalist world – this includes especially the competing corporates — dominates the economic life of the nations, so it also dominates the nation’s political life (Das, 2022). [9] Corporates – and rich business enterprises as such – provide political funding mainly in order to get the assistance from the party(parties)-in-power to get a competitive advantage. The political system, including what is called democracy, continues to favour the corporates; in turn ruling party leaders and their followers amass money through the EBS and other mechanisms of corporate financing of parties as they help the corporates amass wealth by using state power (Banerjee, Op. cit.). At a given point in time, exactly which fraction of the capitalist class gets special favour can depend on, within limits, political-ideological aspects of the party/parties in power, including even personal ties.

The EBS has proven to be good business for the super-rich business people. There are two main mechanisms through which this happens: red-carpet and raid. A senior Supreme Court advocate, Bhusan says that more than half of money redeemed through electoral bonds was “taken as bribe, by giving contracts and by showing fear’ of the investigative agencies (Bhusan, 2014). [10]  

Voluntary kickbacks by companies cause the ruling party to roll out a red carpet for them. Many companies wish to beat their competitors to acquire contracts from the government (to build infrastructure, to produce vaccines, etc.) or they simply want a favourable policy or intervention (e.g. sale of state properties), so they pay up to receive the benefits and the government provides these in return for political donations. ‘A bulk of funds provided through the electoral bonds to the BJP [was in the form of] kickbacks and commissions. They are also given to earn goodwill for future favours’, so corporates cannot be seen as just ‘innocent victims of extortion’.[11]

Following existing social, economic and environmental regulations that exist to force companies to not excessively abuse common people and the environment costs money and can affect a company’s competitive standing, nationally and/or globally. So they flout the laws. And this creates a fear of potential or actual government action. They provide protection money in the form of political financing to avoid being penalized.

Indeed, ‘Raids are conducted by the central agencies which [have] 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’(Basu, 2024).[12] ‘Malpractices by corporates, real or imagined, are utilised to raid, investigate and attach funds and properties.  Owners of such companies are then found to buy electoral bonds and make generous contributions to the ruling party at the centre. There are two aspects to such extraction of funds – one is the crime of extortion through illegal threats and blackmail, in which governmental agencies are complicit; the other is those who have actually broken the law and committed serious malpractices are allowed to get away with bribes being paid’ (People’s Democracy, 2024).[13] Thus the political regime – which is a part of the state — provides protection to illegal commercial operations in the form of a protection racket ‘which is often a part of a wholly criminal enterprise—where illegalities committed by businesses such as mining or real estate development, like expropriating people’s land, or laundering illegally obtained profits, are protected by the regime from legitimate law enforcement action’ (Thakurta and Dasgupta, 2024). [14]

There are specific examples of the nexus between the corporates and ruling party at the centre. One would be the reduction of corporate taxes since 2017 (see Figure 2 below) and the simultaneous, gradual increase of taxes on fuel, etc. This results in the shifting of the tax burden from corporates to the people. The companies are paying the ruling party a small part of what they would pay as taxes in order to avoid paying their fair share of the taxes.

Figure 2: Corporate Tax break by the Indian government

fig2 jpg

Source: Sivagnanaselvam, 2021.[15]

Assuming a similar growth of corporate tax revenue as previous years (~15%), the central government, by slashing corporate taxes, has potentially lost Rs 6.27 lakh crore (or, Rs 6.27 trillion) during 2019-20 and 2020-21 only when the EBS happened to be in effect. In other words, lenient taxation policies like this have directly added to the profitability of the top 100+ companies. And (many of) these companies may have generously bought the electoral bonds (as what some BJP leaders call ‘gifts’). Other examples of corporate influence are the ‘monetisation’ of public assets – where extremely lucrative Indian assets are given away at a throw away price, at a loss to the exchequer – or the passing of the widely criticised farm bills (Sivagnanaselvam, 2021, Op. cit.).

Prashant Bhusan points to circumstantial evidence on illicit kickbacks funnelled through electoral bonds from corporations to the ruling political parties in exchange for lucrative favours. One particular corporation, amid reports of financial crunch, made hefty donations through the EBS and then was subsequently declared to be the preferred bidder for several mining licences.[16] Many companies have funded the ruling parties through electoral bonds and other mechanisms to save themselves from being prosecuted for violating quality controls and norms for production. [17]

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 (Basu, 2024, Op. cit.).

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 (ibid.).

With the two mechanisms (raid and red-carpet) in place, and given corporates’ financial ties with the ruling parties and especially, the BJP, corporates make a large amount of extra money directly (through lucrative contracts, buying state-enterprises, etc.) and they get tax-breaks and loan write-offs from government-owned banks, which amounts to making money. So they benefit doubly. Indeed, the ‘quid pro quo arrangements’ between parties and donors lead to policy capture, where decisions over policies are directed away from the public interest towards particular interests, and undermine electoral democracy and governance, as Professor Hasan (2024), a retired Professor of Political Studies, says.[18] A former top government official explains the relevant mechanisms:

The relationship between business houses and political parties represents a two-way bond, with the former dictating terms to the latter to adopt “business-friendly policies”, …even if they hurt the public interest or even the national interest, and the latter taking corporate help to fund electioneering to be able to continue in power. [19]

In other words, India’s political system has ‘gradually degenerated into a “corporatocracy”’ which the framers of the Constitution would never have even dreamt of! (ibid.). Selling policies for corporate funds is anti-people and anti-national. This is new India’s ‘new democracy’. It is democracy more in name and less in practice and content. It is on sale to the highest corporate bidders.

That the EBS was a pro-corporate and anti-democratic and therefore anti-people scheme is evident from the fact that ‘After being involved in various quid pro quo deals, the corporates do not want any exposure of their underhand dealings’ (People’s Democracy, 2024, Op. cit.), while the same corporates beat their drums about a little money they throw in ‘charity’. Consider how the three main national-level capitalist associations – the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) – tried to file an application in the Supreme Court ‘to stop the disclosure of the unique identification numbers of the electoral bonds’ on the ground that such disclosure would amount to ‘the breach of confidentiality agreements’ and therefore ‘would undermine the rule of law and present grave implications for the industries interests’ (People’s Democracy, 2024, Op. cit.).  The Supreme Court, however, refused to entertain the application.  

It is clear why corporates make anonymous political donations. Why do parties need corporate money? All political parties are more or less pro-corporates and do little to significantly alleviate people’s suffering by ensuring the provision of decent employment and public services such as subsidized healthcare and education. So when elections come, political parties try to manufacture support from people by diverting their attention from the failure of the government. This is done through advertisements, bribing, use of coercion, fomenting religion-sectarian conflicts, all of which need money. Elections in India are therefore as expensive as elections in the USA while India’s per capital income is a fraction of America’s. As elections become expensive, politicians become more dependent on corporate financing. This dependence of the political parties on the super-rich for funding has skewed elections in favour of the super-rich which controls the economy (Sivagnanaselvam, 2021, Op. cit.). The state, the affairs of which are managed by the leaders of the ruling party, plays an active role in furthering the interests of their corporate donors of the ruling parties, and especially, the BJP ruling at the centre, often at the expense of common taxpayers, thus increasing economic inequality between the corporates and the common people.

The BJP government not only introduced the EBS. It also defended it in the court by contending that the right of a buyer to purchase electoral bonds without having to disclose their political preferences ensured an individual’s right to privacy. The Indian government also told the Indian Supreme Court that “anonymous political donations” were a part of “the concept of secret ballot” and that “donating money to one’s preferred party is a form of political self-expression that lies at the heart of privacy”. [20] Can a government’s view be more pro-corporate than this? That the Supreme court refused to accept the government’s defense of the EBS is another matter, which is to be welcomed.


Corporate political donation as a cause of common people’s suffering

Ultimately, apart from nature, the labour of common people (those who work for a wage/salary, and independent small-scale producers, including farmers) is the source of wealth (capitalists/CEOs may go to work every day and get a ‘salary’ but the primary source of their income is their control over property). Common people give a part of their gross income from wages/salaries in the form of taxes to the state which is run by political parties. Using the tax money, political parties in power give contracts (for the construction of roads and airports, etc.) to corporates who thus receive a large amount of money. They also receive other benefits. These include tax breaks and write-off of loans owned to government banks and the sale of public sector firms at below-market prices. These lost resources could be used for the wellbeing of common people.[21] The benefits also include the protection from coercive organs of the state managed by the ruling parties against punitive action for violating  environmental laws and social-economic laws (for example, the laws concerning wages and working conditions). These benefits to corporates mean that common people are alienated from a part of their own legitimate income (i.e. when the wage received is less than what they should receive, or when they forcefully lose access to land). With government assistance, corporates make super-profits (above-average profits). They use a part of this profit – or a part of the anticipated super-profit — to issue electoral bonds to political parties. Political parties use the corporate money to distract attention from the failure of the government and allied corporates to meet the needs of the people and to weaken common people’s opposition to those failures. As Noor (2024) says, electoral bonds, benefits to corporates, and political parties form a system within which people’s tax-money circulates (Fig 3).[22]

Figure 3: Common People, Political parties, and Corporate financing

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Source: Author (partly based on Noor, 2014).

Consider, for example, how the EBS has allowed the continuation of profit-making activities of drugs, construction and mining and other such companies that not only puts a lot of money in corporates’ hands but also compromises the environmental quality and people’s health and lives. Many of these companies have donated money to the ruling parties to buy their peace, as noted earlier. [23] Construction and mining companies which engage in substandard practices — whereby workers die in their workplaces, in tunnels, mines, etc., or where people are harmed due to the degradation of the environment — are protected from legal action because they have given money to the ruling party, these companies continue to make millions and to inflict the damage to the people and the environment.

It should also be noted that prior to the EBS, two policies introduced by the pro-corporate government – demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) policy– had broken the back of the relatively small-scale businesses. These policies helped the big corporates, the major political donors, consolidate their market share at the cost of these businesses (Venu, 2024).[24]

Political inequality

Corporate financing of parties, including of the financing of elections through the EBS and other such mechanisms, contributes to increasing corporate control over economic life. There are two ways in which this happens. One is that a corporate makes profit/super-profit, a part of which is reinvested to make the business bigger. Another is that corporates eat up smaller-scale businesses. A pro-corporate government such as the BJP contributes to both of these mechanisms, and therefore to people’s suffering. More broadly, economic inequality leads to political inequality.

Political inequality is in two forms. One is between the corporates, including their family-owned subsidiaries, and common people. Another is between parties: i.e. between parties of big businesses (i.e. mainstream parties) and left parties, and among mainstream parties, some of which may be slightly more conciliatory towards common people than others.

Let me talk about the first political inequality, the one between the corporates and common people. One may accept for a minute that apart from chasing money, those in control of corporates are also political animals with an interest in the promotion of democracy. However, if the corporates’ intention is to promote/sustain political democracy, why do they not usually fund left parties and workers’ and farmers’ organizations, and progressive civil society associations, all of which fight to defend democracy and promote transparency (whether these organizations would accept such funding is a different matter). In fact, the BJP government, which is the government of, by and for the corporates, attacks these organizations as those that divide the nation (‘tukde tukde gang’) and as anti-national, when the BJP government itself is divisive as it divides the nation along religious lines and it itself is anti-national by acting in the interest of corporates, if we see the vast majority – those who earn their wages and salaries, and farmers — as the nation. Indeed, why do the corporates not speak up when democratic rights of common people, including from minorities, are crushed? The answer is that: making money in an endless manner is the business of the big business. That sets a limit within which they may engage in ‘political activities’. Usually, their political activities – e.g. donating money to political parties – are less political and more economic. As India’s Supreme Court Chief Justice has admirably said: ‘contributions made by companies are purely business transactions, made with the intent of securing benefits in return’ (quoted in The Wire, 2024).[25] Therefore,

The ability of a company to influence the electoral process through political contributions is much higher when compared to that of an individual. A company has a much graver influence on the political process, both in terms of the quantum of money contributed to political parties and the purpose of making such contributions. (ibid.).

The Supreme Court has correctly drawn attention to the relation between economic inequality and political inequality and therefore to the political-social role of money.[26] said: ‘Economic inequality leads to differing levels of political engagement because of the deep association between money and politics. At a primary level, political contributions give a “seat at the table” to the contributor. That is, it enhances access to legislators. This access also translates into influence over policymaking’. (ibid.).

The second form of political inequality is among political parties. It is through political parties that the interests and opinions of different segments of society are represented. A level playing fields contributes to a democratic nature of election, other things constant. Political competition between mainstream parties and left parties, and among mainstream parties enhances democratic content of political life and common people benefit from such competition. To the extent that there are progressive elements in non-BJP parties, the elements that defend people’s secular-democratic rights and livelihood, however modestly and inadequately, it is through these parties, and especially, it is the Left parties, through which common people express their political opinion and their economic interests.

Yet, there is enormous inequality between political parties, and especially, between the BJP, and its opposition, which has taken the form of ‘The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance’ (or, INDIA), an alliance of  28 parties to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2024.  Given the race to the bottom that the BJP (the race being the use of the money to shape electoral results that the BJP has actively promoted), corporate funding of elections, including via secretive EBS makes it very difficult for parties such as Indian National Congress (INC) to fight elections without a level playing field. The political inequality is especially stark between Left parties and the rest, including the BJP. The capitalist system boasts of competition while monopolization is the rule of life in economics as in politics. Majority of the secretive donations have been received by the BJP, the Far right, pro-corporate, party, that had won merely 31 % of vote in 2014 when it came to power (Figs 4-5).

Figure 4: BJP’s monopoly over corporate funding


Source: Sarkar (2024).[27]

Figure 5: Growing income disparity between two main national parties


Source: Sarkar (2024, Op cit.).

Conclusion: Corporate funding, democracy, and (‘crony’) capitalism

Nothing exists in isolation. The EBS, or more generally, the secretive funding by corporates for their favoured political parties, definitely does not exist in isolation. It is a part of a larger system the other parts of which are: the central bank (Reserve Bank of India), state-owned banking system (SBI) which managed the EBS, the parliament, the election commission, the Supreme court, a silenced media, and the coercive state agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) (see Figure 6).

The EBS signifies and has been possible because of a large degree of impairment of India’s apex institutions.[28] While the Reserve Bank of India, the Election Commission of India, and even the Parliament expressed serious reservations about the EBS prior to its introduction, their voice was suppressed by an extremely powerful executive, backed by a party with a brute majority which was gained at the 2014 national election on the basis of money and muscle power and a divisive Hindu-majoritarian agenda. Even the Supreme court, which rightly values the principle of judicial review, failed to stop the introduction of the EBS and its 6-year existence. People say by striking down electoral bonds, the Supreme Court has defended democracy. Yes and no. By allowing neoliberal capitalism and increasing corporate control over economy, the collective wisdom of the court has, intentionally or not, created conditions for the undemocratic things such as corporate funding, including the EBS. It should be noted that there is a limited scope of a judicial review by the Supreme Court in policy matters, and especially, economic policy matters (even if the manner in which a decision is taken by the government can always be examined by it, as the court itself has said). And, by not stopping the politics of hatred and demolition of minorities’ place of worship which are sadly means of getting votes, the Court – and the judiciary as such – has allowed a majoritarian party to be in power which then plays its pro-corporate game.

Figure 6: The Electoral Bond Scheme as a Part of a Wider System


Note: CBI: Central Bureau of Investigation. ED: Enforcement Directorate

Democracy, in its original meaning is the power of the people and of the poor (who happened to be the majority). And to the extent that India has had a democratic system, there is a big threat to it. Indeed, even if voter turnouts are high, ‘the poor are increasingly left out of the electoral process’ in terms of their actual ability to shape electoral results to the extent that they had some…’ (Sivagnanaselvam, 2021, Op. cit.).[29]This signifies the political alienation of the poor, the majority.

The opaque system of financing of political parties, including via the electoral bond scheme that lasted for 6 years, is not just the quid pro quo between the corporates and the ruling parties, especially, the BJP. It is also a part of the broader anti-secular fascistic agenda which requires the resources that such opaque system provides. Indeed, the fascistic project of building a Hindu Rashtra certainly needs money (as well as the support of all the strongmen scattered across the nation), and the opaque political funding provides the money (Thakurta and Dasgupta, 2024). It is not surprising that the EBS was introduced by the BJP which is the Far right, pro-business, pro-corporate, authoritarian, anti-national (nation= nation of the poor, workers and peasants), anti-secular, demagogic party which is also truly anti-national (where the nation = nation of the poor, workers and peasants, the majority), and which is supported by its ideological parent, RSS, which also has defended the EBS as just an ‘experiment’.

Disparity among political parties, and especially, between mainstream parties and the progressive parties that fight for political and economic rights of the common people, in terms of the access to funds creates political inequality. The latter affects electoral democracy by tilting public policy towards the interests of the super-rich, ignoring the interests of the majority, particularly the poor/near-poor.[30]

Many say the corporate donation including through EBS points to crony capitalism, where a regime favours certain capitalists over others because of reciprocal ties between them and the regime. So, much of the criticism of the EBS is from the standpoint of crony capitalism and from a standpoint according to which the BJP as the friend of its cronies has monopolized over corporate funding. These are not un-important considerations. But for me the main problem is capitalism per se. You cannot have capitalism and not have crony capitalism or neoliberal capitalism, etc. One must ask: what is it about the BJP and the Congress that make them rely on corporate funding and not on funding from workers and peasants? Why are billions needed to fight elections? What is being bought with the money? Why do corporates not fund communist parties, urban workers’ unions and farmers’ unions? Should the masses and their leaders lose their sleep over the fact that certain corporate friends of the government are treated favourably and not other corporates? Is a non-crony capitalism better than crony capitalism? What is the about the state as such that has allowed crony capitalism to exist? And: can there be an actually existing capitalist state without ‘instrumentalist’ ties between capitalists and the state (Das, 2022).[31]

The EBS saga and other things happening in India shed light on the nature of democracy and capitalism. If the government could introduce and operate an anti-democratic scheme as the EBS, what other anti-democratic policies is it implementing now, and what other anti-democratic action would it be capable of taking in the future, for the political and political-economic power behind the EBS continues to be in the hands of the corporate-backed government and the right-wing party behind it? A given mechanism can give rise to various effects. The EBS was just one.

There is no doubt that bourgeois democracy is ‘a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism’ (Lenin, 1918a, Op. cit.).  Marxists in fact ‘demand the extension of … bourgeois democracy’ as a tool for working class organization, in order to prepare the people for revolution for the purpose of overthrowing …the exploiters’ (Lenin, 1918b)[32] ( italics in original). However, there are strict limits to what the democratic form can deliver, with or without corporate funding.

And when democracy does exist, and to the extent that it does exist, it is, ultimately, ‘for an insignificant minority’, it is ‘for the rich – that is the democracy of capitalist society’ (Lenin, 1917).[33] This is exemplified by, for example, corporate funding, including through EBS in India, and various other such pro-corporate actions of the state. Democracy effectively means dictatorship of the bourgeoisie as a whole. I can work for employer E1 today and E2 tomorrow. But that does not mean I am not a wage slave. Similarly, I can vote for this faction of the ruling class to power or this party of the bourgeois class this year and another in 5 years’ time. But that does not mean I am not a political slave, a slave to capitalist politics and to the state. Left politics is 100 times more secular, more democratic, more pro-people, more pro-environment and yet look at their vote percentage as opposed to that of BJP/Congress’s. It is miniscule even if Left politics, in spite of its various inadequacies, represents the common people better than any non-Left party, including, obviously, the Far Right BJP.[34] Why? What does this fact say about the political inequality between the masses and their political parties (mainly Left parties) on the one hand and the corporates that are supported by non-Left parties on the other.

The bourgeoisie is an exploiting class. It talks about democracy, but ‘at every step’, it erects ‘thousands of barriers to prevent the oppressed people from taking part in politics’ (Lenin, 1918).[35] It must. Poverty of the masses – caused by ‘the conditions of capitalist exploitation’ Lenin, 1917, Op. cit) — is one. Poverty means that often ‘the majority of the population is debarred from [effective] participation in public and political life’ (Lenin, 1917, ibid). Often acute poverty of the masses leads them to vote for a party that is extremely anti-people if such a party throws at them some crumbs (a few kelos of grain; a small consumer item, a few rupees). The poor people may avoid worst forms of destitution in the short term but come to be enslaved to a reactionary political party for years.

The ignorance of the masses partly manufactured by the corporate media, which is also increasingly infected with post-truth politics where there is effective difference between lies and the truth,[36] is another barrier to their democratic participation. The ideas of the different fractions of the ruling class are the ideas that often shape our thinking, and these ideas are disseminated by the media owned by the ruling class.[37]

Another barrier to democracy is the violence inflicted by the political system, which is now-a-days being supplemented by the violence committed by bigoted fascistic foot-soldiers (the informal police). As well, there is administrative coercion by investigative and other such agencies, of which the absence of level playing field for left parties is one expression.[38]

What is to be done then? There must be public funding of elections, and this must be made possible by an increase in corporate taxes. Direct corporate funding for political parties must be banned. The principle of ‘one person one vote’ must replace what is de facto a ‘one Rupee one vote’ principle (Sivagnanaselvam, 2021, Op. cit.). Mixing religion with politics must be completely disallowed, and there must be no state funding for any party that mixes religion with politics. And the left parties must develop a strong a worker-peasant alliance to cooperatively mobilize the masses for deepening democracy in economy and in politics, as a part of their fight for socialist democracy (Das, 2023).[39] There is no alternative to this.

Raju J Das is a Professor at York University. Information about his work is available at:

[1] This is a slightly revised text of an online talk delivered on March 30, 2024, at the National seminar entitled, ‘Electoral bonds and cronyism in India: Implications for democracy’, at Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI), Thiruvanathapuram (Kerala), on the kind invitation by Professor Mohanakumar, the Director of PPRI.

A slightly longer version of this article has been published as Das, R. 2024. ‘Capitalism, corporates, cronies and common people in India’s ‘new democracy’ on sale: The case of the electoral bond scheme’, Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal,

[2] Raju J Das is a Professor at York University. Information about his work is available at:

[3]Association for Democratic Reforms. 2021.  ‘Electoral bonds and opacity in political funding’

[4] Banerjee, N. 2023. ‘Electoral bonds promoting crony capitalism’. Shillong Times.

[5] Bharti, N., Chancel, L. Piketty, T. and Somanchi, A. 2024. ‘Income and wealth inequality in India, 1922-2023: the rise of the billionaire raj’.

[6] Supreme Court Observer. 2019. ‘Petitioners argue that the Scheme is a vehicle for foreign political funding’

[7] Basu, N. 2024. ‘Travails of a Chaukidaar: Fraud and Deception of Electoral Bonds’. People’s Democracy.

[8]Association for Democratic Reforms (2021). Electoral bonds and opacity in political funding;

[9] Das, R. 2022. Marx’s Capital, Capitalism and Limits to the State: Theoretical Considerations. London: Routledge.

[10]Bhusan, P. 2024. ‘Fear of ED, CBI, bribe for contracts… bonds a tripartite conspiracy’

Bhusan adds that: 41 companies facing probe by investigating agencies of the government had donated Rs 2,471 crore to the BJP through bonds. According to him, 33 groups of companies which purchased the bonds had got 172 major contracts and project approvals from the Indian Government. ‘They (the companies) have got a total of Rs 3.7 lakh crore in projects and contracts, in exchange for Rs 1,751 crore electoral bond donations to the BJP’.

[11] People’s Democracy. 2024. ‘Hindutva-Corporate Nexus Revealed’

[12] Basu, N. 2024. Unraveling of Electoral Bonds and its Criminal Underpinnings. People’s Democracy.

[13] People’s Democracy. 2024. Hindutva-Corporate Nexus Revealed

[14] Thakurta, P. and Dasgupta, A. 2024. ‘The totalitarian project behind the electoral bonds scheme.’ The Frontline.

[15] Sivagnanaselvam, D. 2021. ‘Electoral Bonds Are a Threat to Indian Democracy’

[16] Citizens for Justice and Peace. 2024. ‘Landmark Ruling: Supreme Court declares Electoral Bond Scheme unconstitutional in unanimous decision, citing violation of right to information’

‘The UK-based Vedanta groups contributed Rs. 255 million to Janhit Electoral Trust in FY 2018-19 and all of its donations went to the BJP. Sterlite Copper is a subsidiary organization of Vedanta Groups based in the Tuticorin area of Tamil Nadu where it has been causing severe environmental harm. In protests against the corporation, the Police which intervened on the side of Sterlite, shot dead 13 protesters while injuring many more’ (Pankaj and Mogha, 2021).

Pankaj, J. and Mogha, S. 2021. ‘The corporate-government nexus in Indian politics: an analysis of corporate backed electoral trusts’

[17] The Week. 2024. Electoral Bonds scheme worst corruption scam state funding of polls needed Yechury

[18] Hasan, Z. 2024. The SC’s Electoral Bonds Judgement Affirms the Primacy of the Vote Over the Note. The Wire.

[19] Sarma, A. 2024. ‘The sordid story of the unholy Bond: Blood money, ransom, or outright bribe?’

[20] Vermani, E. 2024. ‘Part of Secret Ballot’: How the Modi Govt Backed Electoral Bonds in the Supreme Court. The Wire.,anonymous%20donations%20to%20political%20parties.

[21] As noted earlier, the reduction of corporate taxes has resulted in a loss of potential revenue, a part of which could have been used for people’s wellbeing, so lost corporate tax affects the common people.


[22] Noor, A. 2024. ‘The A to Z of The Electoral Bonds Issue: Why You Should Care as An Indian Voter’

[23] The Week. 2024. Electoral Bonds scheme worst corruption scam state funding of polls needed Yechury

[24] Venu, M. 2024. ‘Quid-Pro-Quo’: How Revealing Electoral Bonds Will Clear Questions of ‘Len-Den’. The Wire.

[25] The Wire. 2024. ‘Electoral Bonds Scheme Violative of Voter’s Right to Information: Top Quotes From the Supreme Court’

[26] See Das, R. 2020. ‘The social power of money and the neoliberal capitalist model of development.’ Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

[27] Sarkar, S. 2024. What Needs to Be Disclosed by March 31: 5 Charts to Gauge the Cash Flow Through Electoral Bonds

[28] Vaishnav, M. 2019. The electoral bonds: the safeguards of Indian democracy are collapsing.

[29]One of the processes that express such alienation is NOTA votes – votes for None of The Above. In the 2014 and 2019 Indian general elections, about 1.04 percent of the voters chose to vote for None of The Above (NOTA), while in some States, it was as high as 2% (Firstpost, 2019).

Firstpost. 2019. ‘Lok Sabha Election Results 2019: Most NOTA votes were cast in Bihar; Maharashtra recorded 4,86,902 such votes with Palghar topping the list.’

[30] Hasan, Z. 2024. ‘The SC’s Electoral Bonds Judgement Affirms the Primacy of the Vote Over the Note’

[31] Das, R. 2022. Marx’s Capital, Capitalism and Limits to the State: Theoretical Considerations. London: Routledge.

[32] Lenin, V. 1918b. The Soviet constitution.

[33] Lenin, V. 1917. The state and revolution.

[34]On the Indian Left parties in relation to the other parties, see: Das, R. 2020. Critical Reflections on Economics and Politics in India: A Class Theory Perspective.Leiden/Boston: Brill.

[35] Lenin, V. 1918. The soviet constitution.

[36] On post-truth politics, see: Das, R. 2023. Contradictions of Capitalist Society and Culture: Dialectics of Love and LyingLeiden/Boston: Brill.

[37] ‘The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.’” (Marx and Engels, 1968:6).  Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1968. German Ideology.

[38] For a detailed discussion on the nature of democracy and barriers to masses’ democratic participation in the capitalist class society where the working masses are fundamentally alienated from state power as a part of their class-existence, see Das, R. 2017. Marxist Class Theory for a Skeptical World. Leiden/Boston: Brill, Chapter 9.

[39] Das, R. 2024. ‘On the Conditions of Workers and Peasants in India: What is to be done today?’

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