When Crime Pays Money and Muscle in Indian Politics Milan Vaishnav

Publication date:
07 Mar 2017
Yale University Press
440 pages: 235 x 156 x 29mm
54 b-w illus.

The first thorough study of the co-existence of crime and democratic processes in Indian politics  

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 processes exist alongside rampant criminality? Why do political parties recruit candidates with reputations for wrongdoing? Why are one-third of state and national legislators elected—and often re-elected—in spite of criminal charges pending against them? In this eye-opening study, political scientist Milan Vaishnav mines a rich array of sources, including fieldwork on political campaigns and interviews with candidates, party workers, and voters, large surveys, and an original database on politicians’ backgrounds to offer the first comprehensive study of an issue that has implications for the study of democracy both within and beyond India’s borders.

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’ view of democracy in India."--Christophe Jaffrelot, Senior Research Fellow at 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

“Milan Vaishnav offers illuminating answers to questions on the nexus between crime and politics.”—The Hindu

“Voters are not necessarily blind to the predilections of the political class: many voters vote for politicians because, rather than in spite, of their criminal reputations,” Vaishnav writes. Why? The author’s explanation, at once persuasive and tragic, is that each has something to gain.”—James Crabtree, Financial Times