With its stew of languages and religions, India often appears inscrutable to outsiders. Indian politics are no exception. In recent decades, a significant percentage of Indian lawmakers have faced serious criminal charges, including murder, kidnapping and rape. South Asia foreign policy expert Milan Vaishnav lays out the reasons behind this strange development. Criminals have long played a role in India’s electoral politics, he notes; so, is it really surprising that these thugs decided to run for themselves rather than simply act as hired guns? A combination of weak political parties and a weak state mean there’s little to stop strongmen candidates. What’s more, voters find value in politicians who are tough enough to stand up for them. Vaishnav’s fascinating study combines deeply researched data with compelling anecdotes; and while he readily admits the difficulty of solving the problem of rampant criminality in Indian politics, Vaishnav offers up a number of practical ideas which could help shift the nation away from this troubling trend.
About the Author
Milan Vaishnav is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.