The first comprehensive study of the nexus between crime and democracy in India.
In India, the world’s largest democracy, the symbiotic relationship between crime and politics raises complex questions. For instance, how can free and fair democratic elections exist alongside rampant criminality? Why do political parties actively recruit candidates with reputations for wrongdoing? Why do voters elect (and even reelect) them, to the point that a third of state and national legislators assume office with pending criminal charges?
In this eye-opening book, political scientist Milan Vaishnav takes readers deep into the marketplace for criminal politicians by drawing on fieldwork on the campaign trail, large surveys, and an original database on politicians’ backgrounds. The result is the first systematic study of an issue that has profound implications for democracy both with and beyond India’s borders.
Table of Contents
- Lawmakers and Lawbreakers: The Puzzle of Indian Democracy
What does the marketplace for criminal politicians look like and what supply and demand forces make it tick?
- The Rise of the Rents Raj: India’s Corruption Ecosystem
How have India’s politics, economy, and society been transformed since India’s independence? And how can we understand the country’s puzzling governance deficit?
- Criminal Enterprise: Why Criminals Join Politics
How has the relationship between crime and politics changed as democracy has evolved? What incentives do individuals with serious criminal reputations have to take part in the electoral sphere?
- The Costs of Democracy: How Money Fuels Muscle
Individuals linked to wrongdoing may have their own incentives to join politics. But why do political parties select candidates with serious criminal records?
- Doing Good by Doing Bad: The Demand for Criminality
Does voter ignorance explain why voters back politicians linked to crime? Or might voters have rational reasons for lending their support?
- The Salience of Social Divisions: How Context Shapes Criminality
How can social divisions sharpen the appeal of criminal politicians? And how do these cleavages vary across India’s vast, diverse democracy?
- Crime without Punishment: From Deep Roots to Proximate Causes
What are the policy levers reformers can wield in order to limit, if not eliminate, the entrenched position of tainted politicians?
- An Entrenched Marketplace: Rethinking Democratic Accountability
What are the implications of the presence of criminal politicians for democracy and accountability? What, if anything, can the Indian experience tell us about the challenges facing other developing democracies?
About the Author
Milan Vaishnav is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. He was previously a fellow at the Center for Global Development and has taught at Columbia, George Washington, and Georgetown Universities.
“The most systematic analysis of corruption and criminalization in the world’s largest democracy. Harking back to the historical roots of this phenomenon, Vaishnav shows that it is growing because of societal, political, and economic factors, and that legislation passed to contain these factors has hardly made any difference. This remarkable book will change readers’ views of democracy in India.”
—Christophe Jaffrelot, Senior Research Fellow, CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS
“This is the first book-length treatment of a peculiar paradox of Indian politics: namely, the coexistence of criminality and democratic vigor. Milan Vaishnav's analysis of this paradox is highly original and hugely fascinating, and will become a standard text on criminality, corruption, and democracy.”
—Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences, Brown University
“Why do so many people with criminal charges contest Indian elections, why do they win so often, and what does this tell us about parties and voters in the world’s largest democracy? Milan Vaishnav’s excellent book uses rich fieldwork and impressive quantitative analysis to provide compelling and surprising answers.”
—Steven Wilkinson, Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies, Yale University
“While democracy is fast taking root in most parts of the world, criminality and corruption are getting increasingly entrenched. Ironically, voters seem quite comfortable with this state of affairs. This strange coexistence of free and fair elections with criminality and money power is beautifully analyzed in this important new book on electoral politics.”
—S.Y. Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India
Why People Elect Crooks
—Raymond Zhong, Wall Street Journal
Mapping the crime-politics nexus in India
—Srinath Raghavan, LiveMint
When Crime Pays by Milan Vaishnav — crooked paths to power
—James Crabtree, Financial Times
Should elections be such a spending spree?
—Divya Guha, Bangalore Mirror
Freedom with defects: The darker side of Indian democracy
—Ramachandra Guha, Telegraph
Milan Vaishnav: Power and Pelf
—Siddharth Singh, Open Magazine
Sasikala saga shows crime-politics nexus has no regional bias: Milan Vaishnav
—Nidheesh M.K., LiveMint
Why Do Indians Vote for ‘Criminal’ Politicians?
—Soutik Biswas, BBC
‘Crime pays off electorally’
—Varghese K. George, Hindu
Vertical integration in India’s crime-politics nexus
—David Keohane, Financial Times
Political scientist and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Milan Vaishnav will give a lecture on his new book, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics. Sanford Ungar, former director of Voice of America and former host of “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio, will serve as a discussant and moderator.
Drawing on fieldwork from the campaign trail, large surveys, and unprecedented data on politicians’ criminal records, Milan Vaishnav will discuss his findings on the inner-workings of the India democracy’s underbelly. Joining him in the discussion will be Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, Executive Editor, Mint.
Milan Vaishnav will discuss his new book, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, with Yogendra Yadav. Anubha Bhonsle will moderate the discussion.
In a groundbreaking book, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, Milan Vaishnav takes readers deep into the marketplace for criminal politicians.