The totalitarian project behind the electoral bonds scheme
Posted on March 30th, 2024


Beyond trade-offs and extortion, the scheme goes to the very heart of the Sangh Parivar’s long-term goal of an ideological dictatorship.

Published : Mar 29, 2024 18:36 IST – 17 MINS READ
Let us start with four apparently disparate examples.

Example 1Ajay Mishra Teni, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, is the BJP member of the Lok Sabha from the Kheri constituency in Uttar Pradesh. In October 2021, his son, Ashish Mishra Monu, allegedly drove into a crowd of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, killing four farmers and a journalist. The junior Mishra is under trial for murder.

The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi resisted immense pressure to dismiss Teni from the Cabinet at the time and he has now been nominated by the BJP to contest the seat in the 2024 general election. Teni Maharaj” is an archetype in Indian politics—the local strongman, whose family rules a virtual fiefdom, and who has made himself indispensable to the ruling party and the local administration. Teni apparently has no corporate backer, or entities who purchased electoral bonds before they were banned by the Supreme Court of India.

Example 2Aurobindo Pharma is a leading manufacturer of pharmaceutical products with an annual turnover of around Rs.24,000 crore—90 per cent of its revenue comes from exports to around 150 countries. Between April 2021 and November 2023, the company, along with two of its subsidiaries with which it shares common directors, purchased electoral bonds worth Rs.77 crore, 77 per cent of which were given to the BJP, 19 per cent to the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), and the rest to the Telugu Desam Party..

Aurobindo Pharma, based in Telangana, also has a business selling liquor. On November 10, 2022, the company’s non-executive director, P. Sarath Chandra Reddy, is arrested in the Delhi liquor policy case. Five days later, his company purchases electoral bonds worth Rs.5 crore for the BJP. In June 2023, a court in Delhi allows him to turn approver and extends a pardon to him.  In November 2023, it donates (along with its subsidiaries) a further Rs.50 crore worth of electoral bonds to the BJP. The Aam Admi Party (AAP) led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is the first incumbent Chief Minister to have been arrested by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) on the charge of money laundering, has alleged that Sarath Reddy’s pardon is a clear case of quid pro quo by the right-wing Hindu nationalist ruling regime.

Example 3Of the total amount of more than Rs.12,154.51 crore worth of electoral bonds that were purchased since April 12, 2019, by buyers whose names have now been made public, the single largest buyer was Future Gaming and Hotel Services that purchased bonds worth Rs.1,368 crore between April 2019 and February 2024. The firm is controlled by Coimbatore-based Santiago Martin, who is often described as India’s lottery king” and who has, for several years, been under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the ED.

Also Read | As ECI reveals electoral bonds data, BJP tops beneficiary list; biggest donor is little-known Future Gaming

Martin’s company hedged its donations across the political spectrum—Rs.542 crore to the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Rs.503 crore to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Rs.50 crore to the Congress, Rs.154 crore to the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress, Rs.100 crore to the BJP, and Rs.11 crore and Rs.5 crore respectively to the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha and the Sikkim Democratic Front; the firm has a flourishing paper lottery business in Sikkim.

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