Reddit #AUA on India with C. Raja Mohan + me

On Tuesday, May 31st C. Raja Mohan, Director of Carnegie India, and I are doing a Reddit #AUA (Ask Us Anything) on U.S.-India relations timed to coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Washington, D.C. in early June as well as the Modi Government’s two-year anniversary.

We will be answering questions between at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST. If you are interested in joining the conversation, the link is here. Here’s the moderator’s description:

We have the honor to announce on May 31st /r/Geopolitics will be hosting the first ever reddit AUA by Carnegie India, the newest addition to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace family. The AUA will be posted at 8 am EST to allow for 1 hour of questions-only beforehand. Dr. C. Raja Mohan and Dr. Milan Vaishnav will be answering questions about the US-India relationship and Indian foreign policy from 9 am – 3 pm EST.

**UPDATE** The transcript from our Reddit AUA can be found here.


How are elections in India financed?

In recent weeks, there has been renewed interest in how elections in India are financed. This is, in part, a reflection of recent events in Tamil Nadu, whose voters cast their ballots today for a new state assembly. Tamil Nadu has long been reputed as one of the most expensive states in which to contest elections in India.

The Hindu reports that the Election Commission of India postponed elections in two constituencies, Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, until “the vitiating effect of the money power created by the distribution of money and gifts to electors loses its intensity and a more congenial atmosphere conducive to the conduct of free and fair election is created.”

It just so happens that E. Sridharan and I recently authored a chapter on the financing of Indian elections that is part of a broader comparative analysis of election financing in democracies around the world. The book, Checkbook Elections, can be ordered here. I have posted a pre-print of our chapter on India here. A policy version of the book’s main findings, including summaries of all the chapters, is posted here.

Here is one of our central takeaways:

Despite the vibrancy of its democracy, India has struggled mightily to regulate political finance in ways that would both contain the costs of elections and curb impropriety in their funding. India does not suffer a dearth of reform ideas; innumerable government sponsored commissions and independent analyses have outlined potential solutions that would improve the credibility of India’s system of regulation. Rather, India’s political finance reform has been stymied by two major factors: a lack of political will for reform, and an economy in which the state exerts a heavy hand, thus incentivizing illicit funding.



Pre-order “When Crime Pays”

At long last, you can now pre-order my forthcoming book, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, on Amazon. The book will be published by Yale University Press in the US and UK and by HarperCollins India in South Asia.

Here’s a brief description:

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.

More details to come in the weeks and months ahead.