In India, the world’s largest democracy, the relationship between crime and politics raises complex questions. Free and fair elections exist alongside rampant criminality, and political parties recruit candidates with reputations for wrongdoing. Voters elect and reelect officials with active criminal investigations pending against them, and today nearly a third of state and national legislators in India assume office with pending criminal charges.
On March 1, political scientist and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Senior Fellow Milan Vaishnav gave a lecture on his new book, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (2017). This comprehensive study of the nexus of crime and democracy in India scrutinizes political campaigns, party workers, voters, and candidates to offer a comprehensive analysis of corruption and crime in India’s political system—an issue that has far-reaching implications for the study of democracy both within and beyond India’s borders. Sanford J. Ungar, former director of Voice of America and former host of All Things Considered on National Public Radio, served as a discussant and moderator.
Milan Vaishnav is a senior fellow in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research focuses on India’s political economy, with a particular emphasis on corruption, governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior.
Sanford J. Ungar is a journalist, author, and former president of Goucher College. He is also the former director of Voice of America and host of several programs on National Public Radio.