Unveiling the Power Players: A Deep Dive into India’s Electoral Bonds

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Dive into the world of India’s electoral bonds, uncovering the key players and their contributions. This analysis sheds light on the impact of anonymous donations on political transparency and democracy, revealing the complex interplay between financial power and political influence.

In the bustling democracy of India, electoral bonds have emerged as a revolutionary yet contentious financial instrument designed to fund political activities anonymously. At first glance, these bonds present a sanitized channel for monetary contributions to political parties, ostensibly cleansing the system of its opaque and unaccounted cash flows. However, the shimmering facade of transparency quickly blurs upon a closer inspection of the top contributors wielding significant influence behind the scenes. This deep dive endeavours to untangle the complex web of electoral bonds, shedding light on the heavyweight donors shaping the political landscape while critically examining the implications of such financial anonymity on democracy and transparency.

Section 1: Background on Electoral Bonds

Definition and Purpose

Electoral bonds were introduced in India in 2018, symbolizing a significant shift in political financing mechanisms. They were envisioned as a tool to ensure clean money flow into the political ecosystem, allowing individuals and corporations to donate to parties anonymously. The rationale was straightforward: to curb black money and ensure that contributions are traceable and accounted for, albeit without disclosing the donors’ identities to the public.

How They Work

Electoral bonds function like promissory notes, enabling donors to contribute anonymously to political parties. Any Indian citizen or company can purchase these bonds from specified State Bank of India branches. The catch? Only the political parties registered under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and securing at least 1% of the votes in the most recent general or state elections are eligible to redeem them. This system ostensibly balances anonymity with accountability, ensuring that only legitimate political entities benefit from such donations.

Section 2: The Controversy Surrounding Electoral Bonds

Debate on Transparency

Electoral bonds have sparked a vigorous debate, polarizing opinion on their impact on transparency and democracy. Proponents argue that the scheme is a step towards eradicating the influence of unaccounted money in politics. Critics, however, view it as a cloak of anonymity that can obscure the influence of wealthy donors on political parties, potentially skewing policy decisions in their favour.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

The electoral bond scheme has not been without its legal challenges and ethical quandaries. Various petitions filed in the Supreme Court of India have called into question the constitutionality of anonymous donations, arguing that they erode the foundational pillars of transparency and accountability in a democratic setup. The ethical debate revolves around whether the anonymity provision serves the public interest or merely fortifies the bastions of power, enabling a quid pro quo culture between political entities and their benefactors.

Section 3: The Titans of Contributions – Who and How Much?

Introduction to the Section

This section aims to peel back the layers of secrecy surrounding electoral bonds by highlighting the significant contributors relying on investigative journalism and publicly available data. It is crucial to note that while the scheme’s anonymity clause safeguards specific identities, sector-wise contributions offer a window into the interests swaying political agendas.

Research Approach

The investigation into the titans of electoral bond contributions involved a meticulous analysis of publicly disclosed financial records, reports by transparency watchdogs, and investigative pieces by leading journalists. While respecting the legal anonymity framework, this approach leverages indirect indicators and expert analyses to sketch a picture of the major players in the political financing arena.

List of Top Entities

The identities and contributions of India’s top 10 individual buyers of electoral bonds are highlighted. These individuals, spanning sectors such as aviation, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and communication, bought bonds worth Rs 172 crore, accounting for 45% of the total purchased by individuals. Lakshmi Mittal, a notable steel magnate, is the leading individual donor, having bought 9.2% of all electoral bonds purchased by individuals. The list includes business leaders and entrepreneurs whose contributions play a significant role in political financing within the country.

Corporates in the Limelight

  • Energy Sector Giants: Estimated contributions running into thousands of crores, ostensibly influencing policy frameworks favourable to fossil fuels and renewable energy allocations.
  • Real Estate Moguls: With contributions speculated to be in the high hundreds of crores, their motivations could be tied to regulatory easing and land acquisition policies.
  • Tech Behemoths: Though less transparent in their political engagements, their contributions are believed to be aimed at shaping digital infrastructure and privacy laws.

High-Net-Worth Individuals

  • Individuals from the echelons of industry and commerce discreetly channelling funds, possibly to sway economic policies and regulatory norms in their favour.

Prominent Buyers:

  1. Lakshmi Mittal – The steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal purchased electoral bonds amounting to Rs 35 crore.
  2. Vedanta Ltd – Vedanta Ltd, a prominent mining and metals company, acquired electoral bonds worth Rs 398 crore.
  3. Bharti Airtel – Three firms affiliated with Bharti Airtel, a leading telecommunications company, made substantial contributions by purchasing electoral bonds worth Rs 246 crore.
  4. Future Gaming and Hotel Services – Future Gaming and Hotel Services emerged as a significant buyer, acquiring electoral bonds valued at over Rs 1,350 crore.

You can access the complete data at https://www.eci.gov.in/disclosure-of-electoral-bonds

Parties Wise List Electoral Bonds

Here’s a party-wise list of funding through electoral bonds based on the Electoral Commission of India (ECI) data:

  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Encashed electoral bonds totalling ₹6,986.5 crore, with ₹2,555 crore received in 2019-20.
  • Trinamool Congress (TMC): Received ₹1,397 crore through electoral bonds, making it the second-largest recipient after the BJP.
  • Congress: Redeemed a total of ₹1,334.35 crore through electoral bonds.
  • Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS): Fourth largest recipient, encashed bonds worth ₹1,322 crore.
  • Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK): Received ₹656.5 crore through electoral bonds, including ₹509 crore from lottery king Santiago Martin’s Future Gaming.
  • Samajwadi Party (SP): Got ₹14.05 crore via electoral bonds.
  • Akali Dal: Received ₹7.26 crore through electoral bonds.
  • All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK): Encashed electoral bonds worth ₹6.05 crore.
  • National Conference: Received ₹50 lakh through electoral bonds.
  • Biju Janata Dal (BJD): Encashed electoral bonds worth ₹944.5 crore.
  • Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSR Congress): Received ₹442.8 crore through electoral bonds.
  • Telugu Desam Party (TDP): Got ₹181.35 crore via electoral bonds.
  • Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)), and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM): Filings showed nil receipts via electoral bonds.

Section 4: The Impact of These Contributions

On Politics

The influx of substantial funds through electoral bonds undoubtedly bestows donors with the leverage to influence policy decisions and political priorities. However, aligning political manifestos with contributors’ interests raises questions about the integrity of policy-making processes.

On Democracy

At the heart of democratic ethos is transparency, ensuring that voters are informed about the forces shaping political narratives. The opacity surrounding electoral bond contributions clouds voter awareness, potentially distorting the democratic dialogue and eroding public trust in the electoral process.


Electoral bonds, conceived as instruments of transparency, paradoxically cloak the financial underpinnings of political parties in mystery. While the intent to cleanse the system of black money is commendable, the execution raises pivotal questions about democratic accountability and the influence of unseen financial power players.

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About Author

Ritu Singh seasoned news hunter with ink in veins and truth as a compass. Cuts through spin, exposes hidden agendas, decodes power plays. Unwavering voice for accountability, amplifying unheard stories. A watchdog who sleeps with one eye open, keeping democracy on its toes

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