A symposium on “Understanding Political Finance and Campaign Expenditure in Indian Elections”, was held on 15th March 2024 at the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study of India (UPIASI) and KITLV, Leiden University. The speakers included Prof. K.C. Suri (Gitam University), Prof. E. Sridharan (UPIASI), Prof. Ward Berenschot (KITLV, Leiden), Dr Vignesh Rajahmani (KITLV, Leiden) and discussant, Sarthak Bagchi (Ahmedabad University). K.K. Kailash, Head of the Department of Political Science, chaired the session.


While there can be no politics without money, money can also erode the democratic ethos. The risks and distortions posed by money on democratic practices has been at the centre of public debate for long. The symposium provided an overview of how money operates in Indian elections and political campaigns. The panellists delivered a compelling talk on the history of policy and political financing in India, highlighting the nexus of money and politics in India.

The discussion focused on the comparative field of India and Indonesia in terms of political finance and political parties and systems. It highlighted various aspects of Indonesia to connect it with the nuanced arguments on the complexities of political finance in India. The discussions further highlighted an essential part of political finance: how parties determine their spending and how much voters expect. The discussion also dealt with the role of political consultancies and the involvement of money in election campaigns.

The speakers further focused on the nexus of corporate finance and politics by giving examples of the state MLAs, bringing back the topic of electoral bonds, and throwing a light on some of the major companies in India. Furthermore, the discussion overviewed the transformation and evolution of Indian political and social structures vis-a-vis money engagement. The speakers dealt with normative implications, emphasising the political impacts and control that money begets.

The session ended with a perspective focusing on key themes such as post-clientelism, voter secrecy, programmatic benefits, and the cost of democracy. How is the money recovered? Who is benefiting immediately? How do voters respond to vote buying? What are the implications of clientelism? Analysing these questions underscored the complex relationship between money and politics and the symposium’s aim.

The insights and comments of the speakers, as well as the audience, made the session insightful and interesting. Research scholars and students actively engaged with the speakers, posing various questions about money, campaign financing, and vote buying in India, enriching the discussion further.


Contributed by Peddapally Vishnu Priya and Satyaki Barua, Department of Political Science