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 a new book, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, 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.
Milan Vaishnav is a senior fellow in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption and governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior. He is the author of When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (Yale University Press, 2017) and co-editor (with Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Devesh Kapur) of Rethinking Public Institutions in India (Oxford University Press, 2017). He was previously a fellow at the Center for Global Development and has taught at Columbia, Georgetown, and George Washington Universities. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.