When Crime Pays


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Money and Muscle in Indian Politics

Milan Vaishnav

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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

“A close look at the underbelly of the world’s largest democracy.”—Wall Street Journal

“Vaishnav meticulously tracks the remarkable political success of India’s accused murderers, blackmailers, thieves and kidnappers . . . When Crime Pays can be grimly amusing.”—Economist

"Milan Vaishnav has gotten deeply into the weeds of Indian politics, and presents in granular detail a remarkable picture of how India's political machinery works. His depiction of the people involved alone makes it a must-read for anyone who cares about the political future of the world's largest democracy."—Teresita C. Schaffer, Survival Global Politics and Strategy

“A thorough, disturbing, and often amusing scholarly analysis of the seamy side of Indian politics.”—New York Review of Books

When Crime Pays was shortlisted for the New Indian Foundation 2018 Book Award.

Winner of the 2018 Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award, sponsored by the Indian Express Group
ISBN: 9780300216202
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
440 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
54 b/w illus.

Sales Restrictions: World excluding the Indian subcontinent