David Keohane, in this Financial Times article, reviews Milan Vaishnav's latest book titled, "When Crime Pays, Money and Muscle in Indian Politics" and explains the vertical integration in India's crime-political nexus. Excerpts below:
"As Vaishnav describes it, there was a reliable political landscape in India, dominated by the dynastic Congress party, up until the 1970s. But as that broke down — for various reasons, mostly associated with the personality politics of Indira Gandhi — the criminals started to take matters into their own hands. After all, greater electoral competition left them vulnerable. What if they party they had a ‘contract’ with didn’t win?..."
"In short, the state has failed to keep up with its voters’ expectations and that failure — of the rule of law along with many basic services — has allowed criminal politicians to serve in lieu of the state: providing protection, social welfare of a sort since the state makes it hard to get even a drivers license without paying a bribe, dispute resolution in the absence of a functioning court system etc. As Vaishnav says, the corrupt politician becomes “the crutch that helps the poor navigate a system that gives them so little access” in the first place..."
"More so, these politicians use their criminality as a badge, as a way to signal their credibility to the voters. If anything, the more voters know about the criminality of a candidate, the better that candidate will do. That, under Vaishnav’s formulation, will be particularly true when ethnic identity is at play, as it often is in India between castes or religions..."
Read the full article here.