Popular Writing

HINDUSTAN TIMES | MARCH 30, 2017
Finance Bill Makes Funding For Political Parties More Opaque Than Ever

There is a dramatic mismatch between what ails political finance in India and the government’s “reform” measures. The budget presentation and its new amendments have made political funding less transparent.

NDTV | MARCH 23, 2017
Adityanath, No Stranger To Criminal Cases, Promises Safer UP

While Indians should be heartened by any decline in the level of political criminality, there are good reasons to treat this data with caution, especially in the case of Uttar Pradesh.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | MARCH 15, 2017
Modi’s Victory and the BJP’s Future

In an outcome that shocked analysts, an alliance led by India’s BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi won 325 out of the 403 seats on offer in the state assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.

INDIAN EXPRESS | FEBRUARY 16, 2017
Let Justice Flow (with Ananth Padmanabhan)

By investing in innovative “DigiProcedures,” the Indian court system can provide more rapid resolutions to disputes.

YALE BOOKS UNBOUND (BLOG) | FEBRUARY 16, 2017
Criminal Politicians on the World Stage

While there is still a lot of uncertainty in terms of how the elections in Uttar Pradesh will unfold, it is clear that criminal politicians will remain on the prowl.

QUARTZ | FEBRUARY 1, 2017
Crafty Indian Politicians Can Game the New Political Funding Rules Even in Their Sleep (with Rebecca Brown)

While the reforms to political finance announced as part of the India’s 2017 Budget are a step in the right direction, they will do little to change the reality of non-transparent political funding.

INDIAN EXPRESS | JANUARY 6, 2017
Purify the Parties

Prime Minister Modi has pitched demonetization as a fight against corruption in India. But to truly free politics from black money, the government must take concrete steps to reform political finance.

DIPLOMAT | JANUARY 4, 2017
A Familiar Story: Donald Trump and India’s Criminal Politicians

In India, distrust of government and social cleavages encourage voters to support those who bend the rules to defend their communities. Similar conditions in the United States contributed to Trump’s election.

DEMOCRACY AUDIT UK (BLOG) | DECEMBER 13, 2016
Why Do Voters Back Corrupt and Dishonest Politicians?

Rather than being uninformed, voters in India strategically elect politicians who are tied to criminal activity.

FT ALPHAVILLE (BLOG) | NOVEMBER 28, 2016
Why India’s Demonetization Alone Won’t End Dirty Money in Politics

Demonetization alone is not enough to end dirty money in Indian politics. Modi must also close legal loopholes, tie tax breaks to political parties with transparency, and directly attack the underlying drivers of the black economy.

NDTV | NOVEMBER 9, 2016
President Trump’s Question Marks Extend to India

What will reassure friends abroad the most is America’s ability to get its own house in order, something that is-frankly-a question mark under a President Trump. America’s credibility has come under intense fire during this election. But what hurts even more? So has its character.

QUARTZ | NOVEMBER 9, 2016
Modi’s Crackdown on Black Money Is Bad News for Political Parties, Including the BJP

Some 75 percent of the money going to political parties is from undocumented sources. Modi’s crackdown on black money will therefore be hugely disruptive for the upcoming elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

MINT | NOVEMBER 7, 2016
BJP’s ‘Five-Layer Cake’ Strategy in Uttar Pradesh

For the election in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party is relying on nationalism, Hindu majoritarianism, Modi’s popularity, failures within other parties, and strong headline economic numbers.

HINDUSTAN TIMES | SEPTEMBER 22, 2016
Politician-Bureaucrat Ties Far More Complicated Than Perceived

A new body of work shows the relationship between bureaucrats and politicians in India is riddled with perverse incentives and unintended consequences. But, it also points to possible actions for reform.

MINT | SEPTEMBER 12, 2016
IAS Reforms: Cleaning Rust from The Frame

The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the essential bureaucratic organ of the Indian state, but it is badly out of sync with today’s demands.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | AUGUST 15, 2016
India’s Taxing Tax System

India passed a historic tax bill which will simplify inter-state commerce. Implementation is a daunting next step.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | MARCH 8, 2016
Modinomics at Two

Despite winning the first single-party majority in India in three decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not effectively used the bully pulpit to champion reformist economic policies.

INDIAN EXPRESS | DECEMBER 30, 2015
PM’s Known Unknowns

For a government whose claim to fame was governance delivered straight from the top, the view from the summit is unexpectedly cloudy.

BERTELSMANN FOUNDATION | NOVEMBER 24, 2015
Modi’s Reform Agenda: Change You Can Believe In?

Given the array of external and internal constraints on the government, further enhanced by recent election defeats, the Modi government is unlikely to deviate from its gradualist path toward reform.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | NOVEMBER 11, 2015
How the BJP Lost Bihar

How did the BJP lose Bihar? The easiest explanation is this: the Grand Alliance pulled a BJP on the BJP.

BBC | NOVEMBER 9, 2015
How Narendra Modi’s Bihar Defeat Will Hit Reforms Agenda

In the short run, the Bihar loss damages Modi’s prestige, complicates politics, and makes parliament more of an obstacle. Its broader impact, however, should not be overstated over the longer term.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | SEPTEMBER 30, 2015
Battle for Bihar (with Saksham Khosla)

The 2015 election in the Indian state of Bihar is a major test for the Modi government. The results will have ramifications far beyond Bihar’s borders.

MINT | SEPTEMBER 16, 2015
Tackling Corruption in India (with Sandip Sukhtankar)

India stands to gain immensely from combining effective, inexpensive and logistically simple solutions with the more arduous task of strengthening important institutions and State capabilities.

REDIFF | JULY 20, 2015
Where Are the Jobs Going to Come From?

Everyone in government knows that the Indian bureaucracy circa 2015 is not equipped to handle the challenges of India’s democracy, economy, and society circa 2015—yet it continues to tinker at the margins.

GLOBAL INTEGRITY, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION, AND THE ELECTORAL INTEGRITY PROJECT | JULY 16, 2015
Checkbook Elections: Political Finance in Comparative Perspective  (with E. Sridharan)

In India, the state’s strong involvement in the economy, together with costly elections, has incentivized shadowy links between business, the criminal underworld, and politicians, exacerbating corrupt practices.

REDIFF | JULY 15, 2015
Modi Is Taking a Big Risk

Given the enormity of the domestic challenges India faces and the newness of the government, voters seem inclined to give Modi some room to run. But this won’t last forever.

MINT | JULY 6, 2015
What Makes the Indian Voter Tick?

While the motivations of Indian voters might be shifting, the make-up of the candidate pool they choose from is not.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | MAY 26, 2015
Modi’s First Year

Is India getting back on track?

MINT | MAY 24, 2015
Narendra Modi’s One Year Ledger (with Suyash Rai)

Modi’s government still has time to live up to the moment and its unique mandate, but this requires resolving five central tensions.

POLICY WONKS | MAY 19, 2015
One Year into Modi Sarkar: New Rules for Indian Politics?

A year after the momentous general election of 2014, some significant changes in Indian political landscape can be seen emerging.

INDIAN EXPRESS | APRIL 7, 2015
Why a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ Would Be Bad for BJP

At least in the short term, an India shorn of the Congress party may actually not be in the BJP’s interests. What the BJP should wish for instead is a weakened but not fatally wounded Congress.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | FEBRUARY 28, 2015
India Budget ‘a Step in the Right Direction,’ but ‘No Quantum Leap’

The new budget is clearly pro-growth in its orientation and is a marked improvement from the government’s first provisional budget issued last July.

HINDU | FEBRUARY 27, 2015
Unsafe After Sunset (with Neelanjan Sircar)

Perceptions of public safety in India are not driven by urbanisation per se; rather, these are likely driven by the infrastructure and amenities associated with the largest cities in India.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | FEBRUARY 11, 2015
A Rumble in Delhi

The AAP’s victory in the Delhi elections over the BJP and Congress is nothing short of a stunning reversal of fortune—the impact of which will be felt far beyond the narrow confines of the Indian capital.

INDIAN EXPRESS | FEBRUARY 4, 2015
The Resilience of Briefcase Politics (with E. Sridharan)

Unless a farsighted Central government can champion campaign finance reforms, the after-effects of the ill-fated 1969 ban on company donations are likely to be felt long after its 45th anniversary.

MINT | JANUARY 26, 2015
How Representative Are India’s MPs? (with Alec Sugarman)

Indian legislators have very little in common with the average citizen.

MINT | JANUARY 23, 2015
No Big Ideas in India-U.S. Relations—and That’s OK

U.S.-India relations have not meandered because of a lack of ideas; they’ve ebbed and flowed thanks to over-hyped pledges followed by half-baked implementation.

HINDU | DECEMBER 9, 2014
Being Middle Class in India (with Devesh Kapur)

Are differences within India’s middle class, in income, education, and cultural and social capital, so wide as to render moot any ideological or behavioral coherence to this group?

MINT | OCTOBER 13, 2014
Pro-Business or Pro-Consumer? (with Suyash Rai)

Modi has repeatedly stated that government should not be in the business of business, but when policy issues demand difficult trade-offs, will the Indian government side with business or consumers?

GEORGETOWN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS | OCTOBER 9, 2014
Modi in the USA

The prime minister’s primary objective in the United States was to make the pitch that India is once again a hospitable environment for investment.

ECONOMIC TIMES | SEPTEMBER 27, 2014
For the Two Nations, Biggest Potential is in Defense

Washington is in a mood to strike up new deals with India and is eager to seize the window of opportunity with a new government.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | SEPTEMBER 26, 2014
Modi Seeking to Revive US Investment in India

Indian Premier Narendra Modi has embarked on a five-day visit to the United States aimed at improving ties and showing an American audience that India is once again “open for business.”

MINT | SEPTEMBER 22, 2014
What Kind of Reformer Will Narendra Modi Be? (with Suyash Rai)

The Modi government must consider pivotal reforms, rather than luxuriate in the current economic recovery.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | SEPTEMBER 2, 2014
Modi’s Need to Move ‘Beyond Piecemeal Initiatives’

While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has improved the quality of governance in his first hundred days in office, he has yet to pursue major economic policy reforms.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | JULY 28, 2014
Kerry Seeking To ‘Reset U.S. Relationship With India’

The primary purpose of Kerry’s trip to India is symbolic, but that does not make it unimportant. The Obama administration is looking to reset its relationship with India as a whole as well as with Modi the individual.

MINT | JULY 28, 2014
The Politics and Plumbing of Reforms (with Suyash Rai)

Reform initiatives that were pursued by previous Indian governments often failed due to inadequate attention to state capacity. This government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to translate ideas into institutional change.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | JULY 10, 2014
Modi’s ‘Pro-Growth’ Budget ‘Lacking on Key Issues’

There is no doubt that the Modi government’s first budget is pro-growth in its orientation, but it still lacks a detailed blueprint for economic renewal.

BUSINESS STANDARD | JUNE 14, 2014
It’s Too Soon to Proclaim Death of Coalition Politics

Although the 2014 election repudiated many of the tenets of the post-1989 system, it is too soon to proclaim the death of coalition politics.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | JUNE 10, 2014
A New Era in Indian Politics? (with Danielle Smogard)

If trends witnessed in India’s 2014 election persist, the country may have closed the book on twenty-five years of electoral politics and moved into a new era.

MINT | MAY 27, 2014
Strengthening India’s Rule of Law (with Devesh Kapur)

The next government must acknowledge India’s weak performance in enforcing the rule of law and take immediate action to close the widening gulf between principle and practice.

BBC | MAY 17, 2014
India’s Congress Party: Down but Not Yet Out

There is nothing guaranteed about the Congress party’s revival, but judging by history, even its opponents would be foolish to write it off. Congress may be down but it is not yet out.

INDIA TODAY | MAY 17, 2014
A Devil Called Policy Paralysis (with Danielle Smogard)

One of the previous Indian government’s most glaring legacies was the deep sense of uncertainty that pervades the economy. Remedying this policy paralysis and uncertainty must be the next government’s number one priority.

TIMES OF INDIA | MAY 17, 2014
Election Results 2014: BJP Landslide Shatters Four Electoral Myths

The results of India’s sixteenth general election challenge the common understanding of contemporary Indian electoral politics in at least four ways.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | MAY 16, 2014
India’s Modi Expected To Deliver ‘Quick Turn-Around’

This election is the first time since 1984 that a single party has succeeded in winning a clear majority and the first time a non-Congress party has been able to achieve this feat on its own.

BLOOMBERG | MAY 12, 2014
Indians Expect an Economic Superman

Exit polls suggest that Narendra Modi is poised to become India’s next prime minister. The hope is that Modi can scale his regional economic success story in Gujarat into a national one.

NEW YORK TIMES | MAY 9, 2014
India’s Price of Victory

The deluge of money in India’s political system is shaping more than just the nature of competition; it’s also having an effect on who gains entry into politics in the first place, as parties rely more on candidates who can pay their own way.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | APRIL 7, 2014
Odds of Congress Party Maintaining Power are Slim

India’s ruling Congress Party is expected to take a beating at the polls, as the world’s biggest election gets underway. The opposition BJP is set to do well, despite its polarizing candidate.

FINANCIAL TIMES | APRIL 3, 2014
The Rural/Urban Divide Dies Out (with Neelanjan Sircar)

Even if the rural/urban divide did once provide an accurate description of the country, there is good reason to doubt it as India heads to the polls in 2014.

TIMES OF INDIA | MARCH 23, 2014
46 Percent of Indians Have No Problems Supporting Dynastic Candidates (with Devesh Kapur and Neelanjan Sircar)

Political parties in India, virtually across the spectrum, have a demonstrated preference for perpetuating political dynasties.

TIMES OF INDIA | MARCH 17, 2014
Growth Is No. 1 Poll Issue for Voters, Survey Shows (with Devesh Kapur and Neelanjan Sircar)

For voters across India, economic growth and corruption unambiguously dominate all other concerns, and inflation follows closely behind.

TIMES OF INDIA | MARCH 9, 2014
NDA Makes Gains With Urban, OBC Voters (with Devesh Kapur and Neelanjan Sircar)

The hundreds of millions of voters whose collective actions will determine the course of India’s 16th general elections represent an electorate that is changing in many complex ways.

BBC | FEBRUARY 25, 2014
India Election: Is There a Surge of Support for Narendra Modi?

Since early 2013 one question has dominated Indian political discourse: will there be a “wave of support” for Narendra Modi of the main opposition BJP?

CNN | FEBRUARY 18, 2014
The Myths of India’s Rising Regional Parties

As India prepares to head to the polls in the next few months, much of the attention has been focused on the rise of regional parties and their potential impact on the national results.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | FEBRUARY 12, 2014
Empty Economics

None of the contenders in India’s upcoming election provide much real reassurance that they can revive India’s long-run economic growth rate.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | FEBRUARY 4, 2014
Will India’s Economy Surge After the General Election?

It will take more than a new government to fix India’s struggling economy. The country needs broad reforms and institutional change to address fundamental flaws in its economic system.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | JANUARY 24, 2014
Crime but No Punishment in Indian Elections

In India, politicians with criminal records are supplying what voters and parties demand: candidates who are effective and well-funded.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | DECEMBER 19, 2013
Does Good Economics Mean Good Politics in India? (with Reedy Swanson)

Indian voters are rewarding politicians for good economic performance—a new and encouraging sign that Indian democracy is maturing.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | DECEMBER 16, 2013
The Year of the Voter in South Asia (with Frederic Grare)

2014 will be a year of transition in South Asia. National elections in Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh will affect both regional stability and international security.

INDIAN EXPRESS | DECEMBER 12, 2013
A New Party, A More Engaged Class

In a region where democracy has been uneven, the successful completion of another election in India, especially one in which voter turnout achieved record highs, is cause for celebration.

DEUTSCHE WELLE | DECEMBER 2, 2013
‘NOTA Is Not the Same as Right to Reject’

It remains to be seen whether negative voting will influence the quality of politicians in Indian elections.

NATIONAL BUREAU OF ASIAN RESEARCH | NOVEMBER 21, 2013
India’s Upcoming Elections: Will the States and the Economy Decide?

The factors influencing Indian voters have changed markedly since the 2009 general election, with the economy now playing a larger role.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | NOVEMBER 13, 2013
The Complicated Rise of India’s Regional Parties

The rise of regional parties has fundamentally transformed electoral politics in India, but those parties may not be the juggernauts they’re made out to be.

BUSINESS STANDARD | NOVEMBER 6, 2013
Two Theories About Gold (with Devesh Kapur, Marla Spivack, and Arvind Subramanian)

Gold has been in the news in India lately because high and rising imports have exacerbated the rupee’s vulnerability over the past few months.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | OCTOBER 9, 2013
The Modi Debate Worth Having in India

The candidacy of Narendra Modi for prime minister offers India a unique opportunity to strengthen its democracy.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | SEPTEMBER 10, 2013
Five Trends Shaping India’s Voting Landscape

India’s upcoming parliamentary election is painted as a head-to-head battle between two national-level parties, but political observers should not overlook local factors.

INDIAN EXPRESS | JULY 15, 2013
A Trickle of Small Victories

The Indian Supreme Court’s opinion that convicted criminals cannot serve in parliament is a win for reformers, but not a total victory in the war on criminality in politics.

CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF INDIA | JUNE 17, 2013
Elections in India: The Errors Voters Make

The idea that caste dominates politics in India may rest on an unsupported assumption: that Indian voters always know to what caste candidates belong.

CNN | JUNE 14, 2013
Is Modi the Answer for India’s Opposition?

The rise of Narendra Modi gives the BJP an opportunity to reshape its narrative before India’s national elections next year. But the opposition party is still at a disadvantage.

INDIAN EXPRESS | MAY 9, 2013
Party in the Dock (with Christophe Jaffrelot)

Criminal behavior is rampant across party lines in India, and it threatens to undermine public faith in democracy if left unchecked.

OXFORD INDIA SOCIETY | MAY 1, 2013
The Demand for Criminal Politicians

Measures designed to dissuade politicians in India from criminal behavior must be accompanied by measures designed to reduce demand for such representatives by parties and voters.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | APRIL 11, 2013
India Needs More Democracy, Not Less

Effective, long-term solutions to India’s governance woes will require a more accurate diagnosis of the problems and remedies that enhance the democratic elements of the Indian system.

INDIAN EXPRESS | MARCH 14, 2013
Capitol Hill to Raisina Hill

A more realistic understanding of domestic politics in both the United States and India could help alleviate the cycles of unrealistic expectations and disappointment in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship.

CARAVAN | MARCH 1, 2013
A More Equal Union

For India’s states to learn from one another, both the states and the center will need to reform institutional barriers to constructive competition.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | JANUARY 15, 2013
Talking Democracy in India

Narendra Modi’s re-election in Gujarat sets the stage for a national campaign in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, but has also sparked a productive conversation about different approaches to development in India.

CNN | DECEMBER 31, 2012
After the Mourning in India

The Indian government’s response to the recent much-publicized gang rape case will be measured by its ability to deliver justice for millions of Indian women not in the headlines.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | DECEMBER 17, 2012
Pivotal Elections in Gujarat

Perhaps no state in India provokes as much political hysteria as Gujarat. Its December 2012 assembly elections will also have significant implications for national politics.

INDIAN EXPRESS | NOVEMBER 14, 2012
The Generation Gap of Governance (with Reedy Swanson)

India’s aging government is starting to show signs of a gerontocracy, as officials get older while the population gets younger.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | NOVEMBER 3, 2012
Five Truths About India

It’s easy to misinterpret India. These five trends shed light on the country’s domestic realities, underscoring India’s internal tensions between continuity and change.

BUSINESS STANDARD | OCTOBER 30, 2012
Builders, Politicians, Friends Forever? (with Devesh Kapur)

India’s struggles with cronyism and land deals are not new, but they will be hard to fix, since the glue that connects builders and politicians is election finance.

CARAVAN | OCTOBER 1, 2012
Resizing the State: What if the Indian State is Actually Not Big Enough?

Examining the realities of India’s state capacity suggests that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, building up the Indian state in several critical areas may be an important part of the solution to India’s economic woes.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | SEPTEMBER 17, 2012
Prospects for India’s Reforms

Economic reforms put forward in India are merely the first step of a longer process that faces significant political opposition.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS | AUGUST 20, 2012
Not So Great Expectations (with Nancy Birdsall and Daniel Cutherell)

The United States has much to offer the countries of the Arab Spring but, as the case of Pakistan shows, there are clear limits to U.S. power and abilities.

DAWN | AUGUST 11, 2012
Making KLB Effective (with Nancy Birdsall and Daniel Cutherell)

In order to make the most of American aid to Pakistan, Washington and Islamabad must work together to identify what kinds of development the United States does best—and what kinds it should leave to other donors.

CNN | AUGUST 3, 2012
India’s Very Political Power Crisis

The willingness of India’s politicians to trade cheap electricity for votes explains why the governance of India’s power sector, and electricity in particular, is in such dire straits.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | JULY 31, 2012
Washington’s Civilian Shortcomings in Pakistan

If the United States wants to keep the promise it made in 2009 to help build a stable, accountable, and democratic Pakistan, it must significantly alter its current approach.