The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Unchecked foreign funds for political parties will endanger Indian democracy

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Outbidding the Indian voter

The Finance Bill is supposed to be an account of the Union government’s income and receipts. Yet increasingly, the Modi government is using it as an omnibus tool to push across all manners of fundamental – and worrying – changes. The Finance Bill 2018, tabled in Parliament, has buried deep within in, a sentence that could change the nature of Indian political funding. The sentence proposes not only to allow foreign corporations to fund Indian elections, it actually says that the new rule will apply retrospectively, dating back all the way to 1976.

This would repudiate the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, passed in 1976. Alive to the dangers to Indian sovereignty, the act barred Indian political parties from accepting funding from foreign entities.

Fast-forward to 2010: the Delhi High Court ruled that India’s two largest parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress, were both guilty of violating the FCRA. They had accepted funds from Vedanata, a British mining firm, and a few others.

In 2016, the Finance Bill sought to overturn the Court’s order. It sought to retrospectively redefine what a “foreign source” is, so as to let the Congress and BJP off the hook. This rule was retrospectively dated to 2010.

But in a bit of comedy, it was discovered that the two parties had accepted foreign donations even before 2010. To remedy this, the Finance Bill 2010 now seeks to retrospectively change the definition of “foreign source” all the way back to 1976 – by more than 40 years.

This episode casts a shadow on the state of India’s democracy. India’s largest parties have come together to overturn a High Court order holding both of them guilty for accepting foreign funds. Moreover, while trying to get themselves off the hook, the two parties joined hands to completely change how Indian elections are funded. The agreement to make foreign contributions acceptable is a troubling development – but not the only change in how Indian elections will be funded. In March, 2017, Parliament passed a bill that actually removed the cap on how much money corporations can donate to political parties. In January, a scheme for anonymous electoral bonds was announced, allowing untraceable capital to influence Indian politics from the shadows.

Political financing is a hot-button topic for even the mature democracies of the West. In the wake of a 2010 United States Supreme Court order that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns with no disclosure, political funding has exploded in the United States, leading to fears that a few superwealthy individuals could override the American voter in influencing government policy.

With corporations – both Indian as well foreign – now free to donate unlimited amounts to political parties, Indian democracy is in grave danger of being overwhelmed by capital, responding not to genuine voter demands but the dictates of its super funders.

The Big Scroll

  • The fine print: Groups of individuals, NGOs can buy electoral bonds without public disclosure, reports Nitin Sethi.
  • In name of transparency, BJP has made it easier for parties to get anonymous corporate funds, points out Rohan Venkataramakrishnan.
  • Running a party and contesting elections costs money. Here’s how the Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtra Samiti rake it in, writes GS Radhakrishna.
  • What transparency? Anonymous electoral bonds will make Indian politics even more hazy, writes Shoaib Daniyal.

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox. For the rest of the day’s headlines do click here.

If you have any concerns about our coverage of particular issues, please write to the Readers’ Editor at


  • In the Times of India, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Swapan Dasgupta considers the possibilities if Narendra Modi lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
  • New Delhi has very little moral, legal and political locus standi to justify an intervention in the Maldives, argues Happymon Jacob in the Hindu.
  • Vote cutting: One cannot simply dismiss the possibility that the motivations of many of the small candidates – whose vote shares remain below 2% of the total vote – may be problematic, argue Simon Chauchard and Hanmant Wanole in Mint.
  • Why are we so charmed by Shashi Tharoor’s English, asks Amulya Gopalakrishnan in the Times of India.


Don’t Miss

Finding their voice: IIT students across India are demanding a bigger say in campus affairs, reports Shreya Roy Chowdhury.

“The push for more active student politics on IITs campuses is not popular. Given their close alliances with business corporations and anxieties about employment for their graduates, the IITs are wary of any activity they see as being disruptive. In fact, even many students are unsympathetic to campaigns they see as ‘doing politics’.

‘We are accused of smearing the reputation of IIT Kharagpur, of trying to turn it into Jawaharlal Nehru University or Jadavpur University,’ said one research scholar. Both these universities are known for unabashedly political student activism that often spills out of the campuses and onto the streets. ‘Professors also discourage students, especially BTechs [or undergraduates], from joining,’ he said.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.