We have been saying for the sake of transparency, we have to make it
compulsory for political parties to disclose all their donations, down to the
A general election may be defined as a periodic practice wherein members of the
legislature are chosen by the citizens of the country. Sometimes, elections are
also conducted to fill a vacated position in the legislature.
The political party which gets the highest number of votes gets elected and
forms the government in the country for the prescribed period. However, the
political party which is in power may be removed by passing a motion which is
discussed later in the paper.
A majority government refers to a political party or multiple political parties
who join hands to cross the majority mark. In India, a political party is said
to gain a majority if it secures 282 seats.
But, at times, there are certain interferences or interferences with the general
elections of a particular country. The interference maybe by a foreign
government, a foreign company, a foreign agency, etc. The interferences are
usually made for the benefit of the country interfering.
There are many instances where a foreign institution had interfered in the
elections of the home country, few of which are listed below:
- Russian interference in Ukrainian election- 2004
- Russian interference in Ukrainian election- 2014
- Chinese interference in Taiwanese election- 2018
- United States interference in Russian election- 1994
- Turkish interference in German election- 2017
Till now, the United States of America has made the highest number of
interferences in the elections of other countries amounting to 81, which is
followed by Russia(or the Soviet Union) amounting to 36.
In an article published by the Voice of America, it was claimed that China-based
hackers were targeting Joe Bidens (USA presidential candidate) campaign.
Even during the 2008 presidential election campaign, a group of hackers believed
to be supported by the Chinese government was accused of hacking into the
campaign teams of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
These interferences often lead to outrage in public, the best example of this is
the orange revolution which occurred in Ukraine after the interference in the
presidential elections of 2004. The main accused in the interference was from
the west and Russia.
Before the movement, President Vladimir Putin had made high profile visits to
Ukraine, giving the citizens a hint of interference in the electoral process.
The election was influenced massively by corruption and voter intimidation.
Subsequently, there was re-election in the country, the 26 December revote was
held under maximum scrutiny of local and international observers. The
preliminary results, announced by the Central Election Commission on 28
December, gave Yushchenko and Yanukovych 51.99% and 44.20% of the total vote
which represented a change in the vote by +5.39% to Yushchenko and ?5.27% from
Yanukovych respectively when compared to the November poll.
The aftermath of the orange revolution was that the constitution of Ukraine was
amended and the powers were shifted to parliament from the presidency.
It was also held that the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) successor
agency of the Soviet Union provided immense support to the opposition invoking
power in the opposition to fight against the odds.
The most recent interference in the elections of a country was by China in the
Taiwanese elections which were held in 2018.
Quoting an article published by Al-Jazeera where it has been mentioned about the
interference of China in the electoral practice of Taiwan:
China is spreading "fake news" via social media to swing Taiwanese voters away
from President Tsai Ing-wens party and behind candidates more sympathetic to
Beijing ahead of elections, Taiwanese officials said. Beijing is test-driving
its techniques in Taiwan, where it has a big stake in the politics and
understands the language and culture, but deployed its cyber-capacities in the
United States, Australia, and other democracies, the officials said:
However, before the elections, Taiwanese police had arrested few suspects who
were spreading fake news in the country.
The foreign interference in the presidential election of the United States of
America is said to be the greatest controversy regarding foreign interference.
The Russian government was accused of interference in the US presidential
elections of 2016 where the two candidates were Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.
The Russian government had made efforts to improve the candidacy of Donald Trump
or to deteriorate the candidacy of Hilary Clinton. As per the intelligence
agencies of the United States of America, all these interferences were done
directly under the leadership of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. The
Internet Research Agency settled in Saint Petersburg, created several accounts
which focussed on improving the candidacy of Donald Trump or to deteriorate the
candidacy of Hilary Clinton.
Such interference by the Russian government had invited fresh economic sanctions
on Russia by then-president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
After the elections, Donald Trump was elected as the President of the United
States of America. However, Donald Trump denied any interference and declared it
as a hoax call. Donald Trump further alleged the Democrats for the hoax call.
Further, Donald Trump dismissed the director of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation(FBI) James Comey who was a part of the investigating team of
interference in the elections.
It was found that Donald Trump had contacts with various Russian officials. Paul
Manafort, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Natalia Veselnitskaya who were a
part of Donald Trumps election campaign, also had contacts with several
officials of Russia.
In practice, and according to accounts available in the public domain, both
Russia and the US have been involved in attempting the manipulation of each
others elections to support their favored candidates.
During the Cold War from 1948 to 1988, the interference was institutionalized.
The US Communist Party, largely under the control of Moscow and supplied with
printed propaganda, was active in US politics until the McCarthy anti-Communist
Apart from Russia, other shadowy agencies are suspected to have influenced the
British referendum leading to Brexit, including the Cambridge Analytica, a �data
harvesting company which was also implicated in the 2014 Indian elections which
brought the BJP to power, and the 2016 US presidential election on behalf of
Indian interference in Sri Lankan election
Few are aware of the interference by the Indian foreign intelligence agency in
the elections of Sri Lanka in the year 2015. The interference was made with a
clear view to defeat the candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa. The interference made by
the agency was because of the involvement of China in the military and the
economic affairs of Sri Lanka. There are deep racial and cultural links between
the two countries. Both share a maritime border as well.
The issue commenced when the president Mahinda Rajapaksa, allowed two Chinese
submarines to dock in 2014, without providing any prior information to India.
This became a matter of concern for the Indian government that their strategic
neighbor, Sri Lanka was improving their ties with another neighbor China. This
gave a hint to the Indian government that the Sri Lankan government has started
favoring the Chinese government more than Indian.
Wickremasinghe, who was elected as the prime minister of Sri Lanka in 2015 was
accused of meeting a man twice or thrice who was later identified as an agent.
Reportedly, the meeting was done three or four months before the voting.
Wickremasinghe reportedly also met the Indian high commissioner or ambassador.
However, the spokesperson of Wickremasinghe said that the prime minister had
discussed the political situation with them. And, denied the fact that anyone
had advised him on any political grounds. Mahinda Rajapaksas defeat was termed
as an unexpected one after he completed two terms as the president of Sri Lanka.
A close associate of the Rajapaksa family said:
There are certain things you dont talk about but added that:
there were clear signs of a deep campaign by foreign elements.
Sri Lankas then defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa - a brother of the former
president had expressed sorrow to the Indian National Security Advisor(NSA),
Ajit Doval about the practices of the agent.
Quoting a report published in the newspaper of Sri Lanka links with the common opposition" had cost Indias Research and Analysis
Wing (RAW) station chief his job in Colombo.
The statement provides further clarity about the involvement of India in the
affairs of Sri Lanka.
Further, it was alleged that a RAW agent helped coordination of talks within the
opposition, and convincing former PM Ranil Wickremasinghe not to stand against
Rajapaksa, but to choose a common opposition candidate, who had better chances
of winning. The agent is also alleged to have been in touch with Chandrika
Kumaratunga, who played a key role in convincing Maithripala Sirisena to be the
A media report from Colombo, days after Mahinda Rajapaksas defeat in the
elections of 2015 claimed that an intelligence office from India was
instrumental in uniting rival political parties against Mahinda Rajapaksa, and
such attempt turned out to be successful as Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated by
Maithripala Sirisena by a bare margin of 3.8%.
In the year 2018, Maithiripala Sirisena had alleged an India intelligence agency
to plot his assassination, however, he didnt name any agency in particular.
Such a remark was made by Maithiripala Sirisena in a cabinet meeting after Sri
Lankan police CID had arrested an Indian national.
The interference by the Soviet Union
The book Mitrokhin Archive
which is said to be the most complete document
by the FBI, claims that under Joseph Stalin (Former premier of the Soviet
Union), India had been regarded as the imperialist puppet. The KGB had started
its operations in India post-1917 and had expanded the operations between the
1950s and 1960s.
In 1958, V. K. Krishna Menon who was said to be a plain friend of the Soviet
was elected as the defense minister of India and soon after being
selected the arms import of India had shifted to the Soviet Union from the West.
The career of V.K. Krishna Menon was spent in foreign before he became the
defense minister of India.
Under his leadership, India was badly defeated by China on the border.
Subsequently, he failed to be renominated by the congress party in his existing
constituency of Bombay for the elections of 1967.
This led him to contest in the elections independently for two years. However,
after two years with the support of the communist party, he was elected as an
independent from West Bengal. But, the fact of the matter was the issues on
which V.K Krishna Menon did his election campaign. The choice of topics
suggested that he had been influenced by the KGB, some of the topics were--
demand that American troops in Vietnam be tried for genocide and his claim that
they were slitting open the wombs of pregnant women to expose their unborn
The Soviet Unions strategy for the Indian elections during 1966 was to
encourage the Communist Party of India(CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)(CPM)
to form a left-wing coalition that would focus on opposing Indira Gandhi. The
Soviet Union had also been subsidizing the CPI and some other left-wing parties
for the election campaign of 1967. The KGB also funded several agents and
confidential contacts with the Congress party.
After the elections of 1967, the KGB doubtlessly and confidently claimed that it
was able to influence at least 30% to 40% of the newly formed parliament. The
congress lost 21 of its seats to other parties.
By the early 1970s, the presence of KGB in India became the largest in the world
outside the Soviet bloc. Indira Gandhi didnt place any limit on the number of
Soviet diplomats and trade officials, thus allowing both KGB and GRU(Main
directorate of general staff of the Russian Federation) to place as many cover
positions they wished for and thus widening their scope of interference in the
Oleg Kalugin (former KGB general) recalls one occasion in which Yuri Andropov
(Former General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union) personally turned down an offer from an Indian minister to provide
information in return of $50,000(equivalent to $21,28,819 in 2020) on the
The KGB was already supplied with material from the Indian foreign and defense
It seemed like the entire country was for sale; the KGB and the CIA- had deeply
penetrated the Indian government.
Suitcases full of banknotes are said to be taken to the house of the prime
minister that too regularly. The suitcases were reportedly sent by the Soviet
Union. On at least one occasion a secret gift of 2 million rupees from the
politburo to the congress was personally delivered to a newspaper that was said
to be a supporter of the prime minister. This was done to spread �positive
information about the prime minister and the Congress party.
The KGB funneled 10.6 million roubles (roughly 10 million pounds, according to
old exchange rates) (134,634,598 pounds of 2020) into Indira Gandhis India,
mainly through her pudgy, double-chinned party fund-raiser Lalit Narayan Mishra
who accepted "suitcases" of money for Congress without thinking to inform the
An import-export business started by the communist party of India in the 1960s
with the Soviet Union had contributed more than 10 million rupees in the party
funds. 10 million rupees were reportedly generated within a decade and such
funds were said to be used for election campaigns. Other secret subsidies, which
amounted to 1.5 million rupees had gone to the state communist parties,
individuals, and media. The funds distributed to parties, individuals, and media
were associated with the Communist Party of India. Still, the funds which were
sent from Moscow to the party headquarters via the KGB were larger. In the
initial six months of 1975, the funds amounted to over 2.5 million rupees.
According to KGB files, by 1973 it had ten Indian newspapers on its payroll
(which cannot be identified for legal reasons) as well as a press agency under
its �control. During 1972 the KGB claimed to have planted 3,789 articles in
Indian newspapers - probably more than in any other country in the non-Communist
world. According to its files, the number fell to 2,760 in 1973 but rose to
4,486 in 1974 and 5,510 in 1975.66 In some major NATO countries, despite
active-measures campaigns, the KGB was able to plant little more than 1 percent
of the articles which were placed in the Indian press. This portrays the amount
of interference of the Soviet Union in India during the 1960s and 1970s as
compared to other countries as well. The articles planted mainly focussed on
publishing positives about the congress party.
The KGB was also confident of its ability to organize mass demonstrations in
Delhi and other major cities. In 1969, for example, Andropov informed the
Politburo, The KGB residency in India has the opportunity to organize a protest
demonstration of up to 20,000 Muslims in front of the US embassy in India. The
cost of the demonstration would be 5,000 rupees and would be covered in the . .
. budget for special tasks in India. I request consideration.
on Andropovs request. The KGB had formed such a strong position in India that
they had the potential to organize an event of mass destruction anywhere in the
In April 1971, two months after Mrs. Gandhis landslide election victory, the
Politburo approved the establishment of a secret fund of 2.5 million convertible
rubles (codenamed DEPO) to fund active-measures operations in India over the
next four years. During that period KGB reports from New Delhi claimed, on
slender evidence, to have assisted the success of Congress (R) in elections to
A state of emergency was imposed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1975 which was then
lifted in 1977. In the state of emergency, press censorship was established, as
many as, 1,10,000 people were arrested without any trial. Opposition leaders
were detained overnight.
The major reason behind declaring a state of emergency was the Raj Narain
In the 1971 elections, Raj Narain had a face-off with Mrs. Gandhi in the
elections and was defeated by her. Mr. Narain filed a case for election fraud
and the use of state machinery against Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The first instance of
an Indian prime minister being cross-examined was in this case. On June 12,
1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha found Mrs. Indira Gandhi guilty on charges and
declared the election as null and void
and removed her from her seat of
The court further imposed a ban on Mrs. Indira Gandhi from contesting in
elections for six years. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was left with no choice but to
challenge the decision of the High Court in the Supreme Court. Justice V.R.
Krishna Iyer Upheld the decision of the high court and ordered that all the
privileges given to Mrs. Indira Gandhi must be immediately withdrawn and to
debar her from voting. The following day Janata Party had organized a rally in
Delhi where a statement was made which is mentioned below:
A police officer must reject the orders of government if the order is immoral
and unethical as this was Mahatma Gandhis motto during the freedom struggle.
Such a statement was taken as a sign of invoking rebellion in the country. Later
that day, Mrs. Indira Gandhi requested the president of India, Mr. Fakhruddin
Ali Ahmed to proclaim a state of emergency under article 352 of the Indian
constitution (Article 352 states that the President can proclaim Emergency if
he/she believes that a grave emergency exists whereby the security of India or
any part of the territory thereof is threatened, whether by war or external
aggression or armed rebellion).
Within three hours, the electricity to all major newspapers was cut and the
opposition political leaders were arrested. The proposal was sent without
discussion with the Union Cabinet, who only learned of it and ratified it the
On 18 January 1977, Mrs. Gandhi announced that elections would be held in March.
Mrs. Gandhi was overconfident about the outcome of the election. To ensure
success it mounted a major operation, codenamed KASKAD, involving over 120
meetings with agents during the election campaign. Nine of the Congress (R)
candidates at the elections were KGB agents. Files noted by Mitrokhin also
identify by name twenty-one of the non-Communist politicians (four of them
ministers) whose election campaigns were subsidized by the KGB.
In the election year of 1977, the prolonged shocker came to the Congress party
where it was defeated by the Janata party alliance resulting in loss of control
for the in the history of independent India.
Articles planted by the KGB in the Indian press declined sharply from 1,980 in
1976 to 411 in 1977.
Then, in 1980, the Congress party won 351 seats out of 542 and Mrs. Indira
Gandhi was elected as the prime minister again.
In the year 1981, there were certain verbal attacks by various members of the
Communist Party of India on Mrs. Indira Gandhi. According to KGB reports, some
of the CPI attacks were personal. Indian Communist leaders spread rumors that
Mrs. Gandhi was taking bribes both from state ministers and from the French
suppliers of the Mirage fighters which she decided to purchase for the Indian
In the spring of 1982, the New Delhi residency reported that Agent �S had
direct access to Mrs. Gandhi and had personally presented to her forged ISI
document fabricated by Service A, which purported to demonstrate Pakistani
involvement in the Khalistan conspiracy.
In June 1983 she sent a secret letter to the Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov,
attacking the CPI for having �ganged up against her with right-wing
reactionaries. The letter was entrusted to Yogendra Sharma, a member of the
Party Politburo who disagreed with Rajeshwar Raos opposition to Mrs. Gandhi.
Once in Moscow, however, Sharma had second thoughts and �confessed all to a
Party comrade. When the story was made public in India, Indiras critics accused
her of �inviting Soviet interference in Indias internal affairs. Mrs. Gandhi
refused to comment.
American involvement in past Indian elections has been significant but has very
rarely been exposed. The most recent case was US author Thomas, Powers
bombshell that the CIA controlled an Indian agent in Mrs. Gandhis cabinet in
1971. In his book, The Man Who Kept The Secrets, Powers, a Pulitzer
prize-winning journalist, states that the CIA was being fed vital information
during a crucial stage in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war by a member of Mrs.
However, the Congress party had denied all the claims that were made and termed
the claims as "pure sensationalism and vague allegations," that the Soviet
secret service KGB had bribed its politicians including ministers in Indira
Gandhis government. The Congress party also gave no relevance to these papers.
While the Russians have tried to downplay Mitrokhins importance, Baroness Jay,
then Leader of the House of Lords, told the upper chamber on June 13, 2000:
Mr. Mitrokhins information is uniquely valuable. Its authenticity has been
proved beyond doubt
A ban on foreign company donations was made in the year 2015 for the elections,
following which, political parties became more dependent on finance from
clandestine sources. It was estimated that a party having 500 candidates would
be having an electoral bill of over Rs. 25 crores(around Rs. 25 lakh per
candidate). The conclusion is that the demand for foreign assistance increased
The elections of 2015, probably for the first time, was subjected to a massive
injection of funds from Islamic countries. Libya being the major donor. Though,
the support was extended only to Muslim parties like the Muslim league.
An electoral bond is like a promissory note that has its specified face value
that can be used by individuals, organizations, and institutions to donate money
to political parties without revealing the identity of the donor. Before the
budget of 2017, it was a rule that a political party doesnt need to reveal the
source of donation that they have received if the donation is of less than Rs.
However, the rule was widely misused by the parties by saying that they received
90% of their donations in the denomination of fewer than Rs. 20,000 which
increased the amount of black money in the economy. Therefore, after
recommendation by the election commission, the government reduced the limit of
an anonymous donation to Rs. 2,000 in the budget of 2017.
Surprisingly, electoral bonds are issued to ensure transparency in the political
funding but the reality was different. As per data of Election Commission of
India; the ruling BJP raised Rs 2,410 crore before the Lok Sabha elections 2019
which includes around 60% or Rs 1,450 crore through Electoral Bonds.
According to ADR, for the electoral bond tranche that was issued in March 2018,
parties received ?222 crores through electoral bonds. Of this, the BJP received
almost 95% of the proceeds, standing at almost 210 crores.
In 2014, when the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was not amended, the BJP
and Congress party had allegedly accepted donations from Vedanta Resources,
registered in England and Wales. However, it was indirect, since it owned
controlling stakes in Sterlite Inc. and Sesa Goa, under whose name contributions
The BJP alone accounted for close to 93% and the BJP and Congress together
account for approximately 98% of all declared donations of national political
parties, according to information compiled by the Association Of Democratic
Reforms (ADR) based on party declarations to the Election Commission of India.
The party who introduced this received the highest donations.
In 2014, under the case, Association for Democratic Reforms & ANR. v. Union of
India & ORS, the high court of Delhi held that the Congress party and the BJP
party, violated the ban on foreign contributions under the Foreign Contribution
(Regulation) Act, by accepting cash from two local companies owned by a company,
Vedanta based in London between 2004 and 2012.
By the definition of the 1976 act, the Delhi High Court ruled that:
multiple donations from the London-based natural resources giant Vedanta
(among a few others) provided to both parties ran afoul of the law on the books.
Since more than one-half of their share capital was held by a foreign company
the donations in favor of the political parties are to be construed as
emanating from a Foreign Source and fall within the prohibition imposed by the
Laws related to electoral interference in India:
Section 29(B) of the People Representation Act, 1951-As per this
section, every political party may accept any contribution made voluntarily
by any person or any company other than a government company. It also
mentions that no political party shall be eligible to accept any
contribution from any foreign source.
Section(1)(G) of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010-As
per this section, a foreign company means any company or association or body
of individuals incorporated outside India and includes- a foreign company
within the meaning of Section 379 of the Companies Act, 2013, a company
which is a subsidiary of a foreign company, a multi-national corporation.
Section(1)(H) of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010- As
per this section, a foreign contribution "means the donation, delivery or
transfer made by any foreign source ? of any article, not being an article
given to a person as a gift for his personal use, if the market value, in
India, of such article, on the date of such gift is not more than such sum
as may be specified from time to time by the Central Government by the rules
made by it in this behalf, of any currency, whether Indian or foreign, of
any security such as shares, scrips, stocks, bonds, debentures, debenture
stock or other marketable securities of a like nature in or of any
incorporated company or other body corporate.
Section 2(1)(J) of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010-As
per this section, a foreign source includes the Government of any foreign
country or territory and any agency of such Government, any international
agency, not being the United Nations or any of its specialized agencies, the
World Bank, International Monetary Fund or such other agency as the Central
Government may, by notification, specify in this behalf, a foreign company,
a corporation, not being a foreign company, incorporated in a foreign
country or territory, a multi-national corporation, a company within the
meaning of the Companies Act, 1956 a trade union in any foreign country or
territory, whether or not registered in such foreign country or territory, a
foreign trust or a foreign foundation, by whatever name called, or such
trust or foundation mainly financed by a foreign country or territory, a
society, club or other association of individuals formed or registered
outside India, a citizen of a foreign country.
Section 3(1)(A) of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010- This
section prohibits an election candidate from accepting any amount of
contribution from any foreign source.
The finance bill of 2018 which was passed by the parliament amends the finance
act of 2016 and brought retrospective amendments to it, changing the foreign
contribution tolerance limit to 1976 from 2010. This means that initially, all
foreign donations received before September 26, 2010, could be put under
scrutiny. This amendment by the Finance Bill pushes this date back to August 5,
1976, effectively giving this bill a retrospective effect by almost 35 years.
The finance bill also amended section 2 of Foreign Contribution Regulation, Act,
the amendment state that companies in which foreign entities who have businesses
in India and whose holdings in them do not exceed half the companys own capital
at the time of making this contribution (i.e. who do not hold an ownership
stake) shall not be classified as a foreign company. Such a retrospective
amendment helped the Congress party and the BJP to escape from the 2014 Delhi
High Court judgment.
The BJP government, through the Finance Act, 2016, had also changed the
definition of a foreign company by saying a firm with less than 50% of share
capital held by a foreign entity would no longer be a foreign source anymore.
However, the major concern about these amendments was that no debate regarding
the amendments was made in the parliament.
India is the largest democracy in the world and the main feature of a democratic
government is transparency in its work. Democracy ensures that the work done was
within the rules and regulations.
In India, there has been a history of malpractices during the elections.
Malpractices in the form of foreign interference, funding to political parties,
defection, EVM hacking, etc.
The major reasons for electoral interferences are Hacking our political system,
Purchasing of digital advertisements, pumping money in political parties,
foreign news agencies setting up in India, etc.
As per the current law in India, any foreign company can donate any amount of
money to their preferred political party through their subsidies. This can be
done through electoral bonds and electoral bonds would help in maintaining
Yaqoob Quereshi commented on the new amendment saying that the new amendment
would make Indian politics and Indian elections vulnerable to foreign elections.
Quereshi also mentioned that no one makes a free donation, everyone requires
something in return.
I would strongly suggest or recommend the following:
- Laws must be formulated to scrap any foreign donations to political
- Transparency must be improved by widening the scope of current laws.
- The amendment made in 2014 with respect Foreign Contributions Regulation
Act, must be restored, which would prevent foreign companies to contribute
through their subsidies.
- Technological improvement must be taken care of, which would ensure
minimum hacking into our electoral system.
- Technological improvements must also be made about online
- Stringent laws must be made so that even the tiniest contribution comes
under the radar.
- Courts must be established that would consider the matters related to
Since elections are an event that does not occur regularly, therefore,
transparency must be at its peak. There should be no influence of any foreign
source on the political parties/candidates.
No country with any self-respect would want its political parties to be
controlled by foreign money.- Jagdeep Chokkar (Founder of ADR)
Written By: Rehan Bhasin
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