Over the last year, the role of foreign entities in elections has become an important point of consideration. In New Zealand, a national MP Jian Yang came under fire for having undisclosed relations with the Chinese intelligence. The law in Australia has also changed to regulate political funding after revelations that 80 per cent of foreign funding came from China. And of course, there’s the open secret about Russian interference in the 2016 American elections. Rory Medcalf dubs this ‘sharp power‘ but the concept is not new. Countries have been meddling in each other’s affairs while peddling statements about justice and fairness since the conception of sovereignty.
In India, we may think that our elections are messy enough without the influence of foreign hands. Indeed, the Election Commission has its work cut out in regulating illegal cash flow by political parties during elections. But our system has been made all the more vulnerable by the 2018 Finance Bill. A sneaky little clause in the Budget disempowered the existing Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 2010 retrospectively so that both the BJP and the Congress are cushioned from scrutiny. This makes the Indian system all the more susceptible to foreign influence. It may seem counter-intuitive to think of any external strings in the 2019 elections. But if the trends in countries like Australia and the United States are anything to go by, then they are not to be easily dismissed.