Nearly every month, the terrific journal, Governance, leads with a summary of a forthcoming book pertaining to democracy, governance, or public administration. For their October issue, the journal carried a short essay of mine on my forthcoming book, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics.
The piece, entitled “Why Voters Sometimes Prefer Criminals as Candidates,” outlines the rational reasons for which voters in India (and elsewhere) decide to support a candidate with a serious criminal reputation. In contrast to the prevailing wisdom that such backing is due to a lack of information, I find that voters quite willingly lend their support to such political figures–with eyes wide open.
Here’s the key paragraph:
In settings where two conditions are operative—weak or unevenly enforced rule of law and highly salient social divisions—politicians can use their criminality to signal their credibility when it comes to protecting the interests of voters in their constituencies. This “protection” typically involves substituting for a state administration that is unable (or unwilling) to effectively and impartially fulfill its basic functions, such as guaranteeing public security, adjudicating disputes, and providing core public services. The “interests” of constituents that politicians pledge to protect are often cast in terms of preserving the status of their social (often ethnic) community. This allows a politician to spin his willingness to run afoul of the law as a necessary qualification for “defending” his community.
If you are interested in learning more, you can read the full piece here.