On the eve of general elections, there is an increasingly heated debate in India over the wisdom of introducing a universal basic income for its poorest citizens. This public conversation was triggered by Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s announcement on Monday that, if elected to power, the Congress would introduce a minimum income guarantee for all poor households.
I have a short piece in the Washington Post on the Congress announcement, which came on the same day as a new proposal by Arvind Subramanian and colleagues for a QUBRI–or quasi-universal basic rural income.
You can read the entire piece here.
The latest essay in our “India Elects 2019” series explores the BJP’s prospects of expanding its reach along India’s Eastern seaboard. The saffron party is eager to make inroads along the East coast in hopes that victories there can compensate for almost certain losses in the Hindi belt.
In the piece, Jamie Hintson and I take a state-by-state look at the BJP’s prospects. The image below shows how things stacked up in 2014.
You can read the entire essay here.
Each year, the Indian journal Seminar devotes its January issue to looking back at the major political issues of the prior year. In the January 2019 issue, I am lucky to have a short essay on the much-hyped political finance “reforms” the Modi government instituted in 2018. I place “reforms” in quotes because I believe the new measures do very little to reform the system–and, in fact, perhaps do the very opposite.
The January 2019 issue has other great essays from thinkers ranging from T.N. Ninan to Srinath Raghavan and Yamini Aiyar. Pick up a copy.
You can read my essay in its entirety here.
This week, in partnership with the Hindustan Times, we kick off a five-part series on our new book, Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India. Each day this week, HT will publish a column drawing on our new volume, highlighting the brilliant analyses several of our authors have put together.
For the inaugural piece, Devesh Kapur and I provide an introduction that summarizes the key takeaways of the book and reminds readers why adequately regulating political finance is fundamental to a healthy democracy.
Here’s a glimpse:
Distortions in electoral finance can undermine that legitimacy and threaten democracy itself. In our view, there can hardly be a worthier, yet more underexplored, line of research for scholars to pursue, and for the public to understand.
You can read the full piece here.
The first review of “Costs of Democracy” is out–and it’s from Gilles Verniers of Ashoka University in this week’s India Today magazine. Few people study India’s electoral politics as closely as Gilles so it’s a real pleasure to see a review of the book with his byline. Here’s a brief excerpt:
The implications are far-reaching and critical to the functioning and meaning of India’s democracy. Money acts as an important filter of who gets to become a representative. Money affects the ability of political actors to act independently, as it chains them to a system of obligations without oversight. By using empirical evidence to shed light on an opaque phenomenon, this book contains the best that academia has to offer to a broad audience of concerned citizens.
You can read the review in full here. More information on the book, including ordering details, can be found here.
For the past two years, together with a fantastic group of friends and scholars, I’ve been working on a new volume that examines political finance in India. At long last, that book–Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India–is coming out. The book takes a deep-dive into how money operates in the world’s largest democracy.
The various chapters in the book draw from extensive fieldwork on political campaigns, unique surveys, and creative and innovative data analysis. Together, they address the institutional and regulatory context governing the flow of money in politics; the sources of political finance; the need for such large spending; how money flow, operate, and interact with different levels of government.
You can find more details about the book, including pre-order information, here.
The 2018 Karnataka assembly election is done and dusted. This year’s iteration was a long and strange trip that saw countless twists and turns.
I wrote a short piece for the Hindustan Times on the implications of the election for India’s domestic politics. Here’s a taste:
Karnataka could prove a bittersweet victory for the Congress. This is a state in which the party hurled everything but the kitchen sink at the BJP, yet still finds itself at the mercy of a smaller coalition ally….[H]owever diminished its standing, a coalition government in which the Congress is a prominent part will help it both substantively and materially.
For Foreign Policy, I wrote a longer essay on how the Karnataka shenanigans shine a light on India’s democratic underbelly. A brief excerpt:
Arguably the biggest loser is Indian democracy. The Karnataka soap opera would be highly entertaining, if it did not so effectively shine a light on the underbelly of Indian elections. As in President Donald Trump’s United States, in India, divisive politics is ratings gold. Beneath the surface, however, lasting damage to norms and institutions is eroding trust in the system.
The HT piece can be found here and the longer Foreign Policy article is here.
In India, there is a commonly held belief that higher turnout in elections is inherently bad for incumbents. While the origins of this piece of received wisdom are unclear, it is a trope that is carted out after each and every election. In a new piece as part of our India Elects 2019 series (done in collaboration with the Hindustan Times, Johnny Guy and I examine the association between turnout and incumbency drawing on a dataset of more than 120 state elections between 1980 and 2012. We find no empirical relationship between the two. We write:
What our analyses do reveal is that, despite the popularity of the notion that citizens come out to the polls in greater numbers when they are motivated to punish the incumbent government, three decades of electoral data present a more ambiguous picture. Voter turnout, the data suggest, is not necessarily pro- or anti-incumbent; rather, the relationship between these two variables is likely shaped by the specific context at hand. Similar analyses using national election data conducted by other researchers tell a comparable story: changes in voter turnout are not highly informative of future electoral outcomes.
You can find our piece here (and below) and the original journal article (published in Studies in Indian Politics) here.
For those in D.C., Carnegie is hosting the second installment in our #IndiaElects2019 series on Tuesday, May 8 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. An all-star cast–James Crabtree of the LKY School, Sadanand Dhume of AEI, and Tanvi Madan of Brookings–will discuss the Modi government’s first four years in office and the pivot to next year’s general elections, scheduled for Spring 2019. The conversation will cover economics, politics, foreign policy and everything in between.
You can RSVP here. For those not in Washington, we’ll post video as soon as the event is done.
Today, we launched a brand new Carnegie Endowment initiative called “India Elects 2019.” This initiative, which builds on what we did four years ago (with “India Decides 2014“), attempts to provide timely research and analysis on electoral trends in India ahead of next year’s general election.
The first essay in the series, “From Cakewalk to Contest,” provides a macro picture of where the race stands today. Here’s a glimpse:
Electoral outcomes are notoriously difficult to predict in India’s fragmented, hypercompetitive democracy. But one need not go out on a limb to declare that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be the clear favorite if the election were held today…Yet the election’s clear front-runner is far from invulnerable, despite anticipation of a BJP cakewalk in 2019. Although the intricacies of the upcoming race—such as the selection of candidates and the rhetoric of campaigns—remain unknown one year out, underlying structural conditions suggest far rockier terrain may lie ahead. In particular, four crucial objectives keep BJP strategists up at night: expanding beyond regional strongholds, recruiting new—and retaining old—coalition partners, withstanding a disappointing economic performance, and contending with fluctuations in voter mobilization. The party’s performance in the 2019 election will hinge largely on its ability to address these potential vulnerabilities and the opposition’s ability to exploit them.
This year, we have partnered with the Hindustan Times, which will carry our original content in print and online. We will also collaborate with them on infographics and video. HT put together a lovely full-page spread for our inaugural piece:
You can read the full Carnegie essay here.