Publications

Books

COSTS OF DEMOCRACY: POLITICAL FINANCE IN INDIA | OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS | 2018 (co-editor with Devesh Kapur)

The first, in-depth examination of how money operates in the world’s largest democracy.

Visit book page here
Excerpt: Scroll

Chapter One: Introduction (with Devesh Kapur)
Chapter Two: Political Finance in a Developing Democracy: The Case of India (with E. Sridharan)
Chapter Four: Builders, Politicians, and Election Finance in India (with Devesh Kapur)
Chapter Nine: Conclusion: Implications for Research and Policy (with Devesh Kapur and E. Sridharan)

Media: Business Standard, Times of India, India Today, The Book Review, Hindu, Financial Express, Seminar, The Week, Indian Express

RETHINKING PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS IN INDIA | OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS | 2017 (co-editor with Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta)

An analytical overview of the institutional foundations of the world’s largest democracy.

Visit book page here
Excerpt: Mint

Chapter One: Introduction (with Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta)
Chapter Ten: Election Commission of India (with E. Sridharan)

Reviews: Business Standard, OPEN, The Book Review, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Swarajya

WHEN CRIME PAYS: MONEY AND MUSCLE IN INDIAN POLITICS | YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS/HARPERCOLLINS INDIA | 2017

The first comprehensive study of the nexus between crime and democracy in India.

Visit book page here

SHORT OF THE GOAL: U.S. POLICY AND POORLY PERFORMING STATES | CENTER FOR GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT | 2006 (co-editor with Robert Ayres and Nancy Birdsall)

Analyzing one of the most troubling, yet poorly understood challenges in the developing world, Short of the Goal sets an agenda for increased American effectiveness in dealing with failed states to promote economic development and international security.

Introductory chapter: “A Mismatch With Consequences” (with Jeremy Weinstein)
Full manuscript here

Reviews: Foreign Affairs

Papers/Reports

AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE | FORTHCOMING
Who Rallies Around the Flag? Nationalist Parties, National Security, and the 2019 Indian Election (with Jamie Hintson)

National security crises often generate a ‘rally-around-the-flag’ effect, especially under nationalist administrations, but the salience of a security crisis varies within a country. Does exposure to a crisis intensify rallying by fomenting nationalism, inciting hawkishness, and distracting from quotidian economic concerns? Or does exposure deepen dissatisfaction with the incumbent, thereby reducing a rallying effect? We argue the latter using evidence from a difficult test in India. A major pre-election terrorist attack boosted the nationwide popularity of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the nationalist ruling party. Yet we find that proximity to the victims’ funeral processions, which served as patriotic rallies, substantially reduced BJP support where the party was incumbent. The size and breadth of our observed effects indicate that the social commemoration of the attack, rather than direct personal connections to its victims, fuelled anti-incumbent sentiment. Mobilizing collective anger after a crisis may dampen rather than augment a rally-around-the-flag effect.

Op-ed: Hindustan Times

STUDIES IN INDIAN POLITICS | JUNE 2022
India@75: Religion and Citizenship in India (with Madhav Khosla)

As India celebrates 75 years of independence, fresh questions are being raised about who is an Indian. This essay introduces a special section of Studies in Indian Politics which puts forward answers to this question considering recent tectonic changes in India’s political climate and party system. We outline how religion is being increasingly adopted as a filter through which citizenship is decided—both in formal, legal terms as well as in informal terms. The special section delves deeper into this terrain, exploring several critical themes: de jure changes to India’s citizenship regime, the relationship between Hindu nationalism and liberal democracy, the judiciary’s role in adjudicating religious disputes, the Muslim community’s response to recent policy shifts and the changing nature of electoral coalition building. Taken together, the articles in this section represent a signal contribution to ongoing debates in India—and elsewhere—on democracy, nationalism and inclusion.

* The remaining essays in this special section of Studies in Indian Politics can be found here.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE | MAY 2022
Indo-Australian Voters and the 2022 General Election (with Caroline Duckworth and Devesh Kapur)

Support for Australia’s leading opposition force, the Labor Party, among voters with Indian origins may be a sign of a coming change in power, but neither major party can take their support for granted.

Op-ed: The Age

PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICS | MARCH 2022
Rethinking the Study of Electoral Politics in the Developing World: Reflections on the Indian Case (with Adam Auerbach et al.)

In the study of electoral politics and political behavior in the developing world, India is often considered to be an exemplar of the centrality of contingency in distributive politics, the role of ethnicity in shaping political behavior, and the organizational weakness of political parties. Whereas these axioms have some empirical basis, the massive changes in political practices, the vast variation in political patterns, and the burgeoning literature on subnational dynamics in India mean that such generalizations are not tenable. In this article,we consider research on India that compels us to rethink the contention that India neatly fits the prevailing wisdom in the comparative politics literature. Our objective is to elucidate how the many nuanced insights about Indian politics can improve our understanding of electoral behavior both across and within other countries, allowing us to question core assumptions in theories of comparative politics

SEMINAR | JANUARY 2022
Has India’s ‘Flailing State’ Been Turned Upside Down?

In 2009, economist Lant Pritchett famously described India as a ‘flailing state.’ Thus emerged the dominant characterization of the Indian state in the post-liberalization era. This essay examines whether Pritchett’s characterization still holds true in 2022.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE | NOVEMBER 2021
Britain’s New Swing Voters? A Survey of British Indian Attitudes (with Caroline Duckworth and Devesh Kapur)

As the demographic weight and political influence of British Indians in the United Kingdom continue to increase, this study provides an empirically robust and analytically nuanced picture of the attitudes of this increasingly important demographic.

Op-ed: The Guardian

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE | JUNE 2021
Social Realities of Indian Americans: Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (with Sumitra Badrinathan, Jonathan Kay, and Devesh Kapur)

As the profile of the Indian American community has grown, so too has its economic, political, and social influence. But how Indian Americans choose to deploy this influence remains an open question.

Op-ed: Hindustan Times

URBANISATION | MAY 2021
Gender, Social Change and Urbanisation in Four North Indian Clusters (with Devesh Kapur and Neelanjan Sircar)

Urbanisation in India is reshaping established social and economic patterns of behaviour in ways that scholars are struggling to analyse. This article introduces this special issue presenting new empirical research on the interconnections between gender, social change and urbanisation in India. It does so by relying on a unique dataset drawn from nearly 15,000 households across four consequential urban clusters—Dhanbad, Indore, Patna and Varanasi—in North India. The collection of articles in this issue informs new inquiries into women’s employment, women’s agency and the construction and shaping of social attitudes. Specifically, the articles disentangle the practical barriers to women’s economic empowerment, measure how employment and household dynamics shape women’s agency and explore ways in which status hierarchies and variation in access to information colour women’s social attitudes and political preferences. Collectively, they demonstrate the uneven nature of gender empowerment in the shadow of an urbanising, but highly stratified economy and society

Op-ed: Ideas of India

URBANISATION | MAY 2021
What Is Women’s Work? Reflections from Four North Indian Urban Clusters (with Devesh Kapur and Dawson Verley)

The actual extent of the female employment challenge in India is much debated. Data on female labour force participation (FLFP) in India is hampered by shortcomings in data validity and data accuracy. The objective of this article is to explore challenges to data accuracy through two potential sources of error: measurement error and reporting error. Drawing on a unique source of granular survey data from households in four north Indian urban clusters, we demonstrate that the precise nature of the survey employed has meaningful impacts on the reporting of FLFP. Furthermore, the gender composition of respondents also seems to matter although, after controlling for gender, self-reporting is indistinguishable from proxy reporting.

Op-ed: Ideas of India

URBANISATION | MAY 2021
Working Women’s Decision-Making Power at Home: Evidence from Four North Indian Urban Clusters (with Megan Maxwell)

Do working women enjoy greater levels of human agency? While the theoretical foundations underlying this connection are clear, the empirical evidence is quite mixed. We leverage detailed, new data on intra-household decision-making and labour market behaviour from four north Indian urban clusters to shed light on this question. We find that women who work exercise greater say in important decisions around the home. However, this ‘work advantage’ exhibits significant heterogeneity across decision types, decision-making domains, and definitions of work.

Op-ed: Ideas of India

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | FEBRUARY 2021
How Do Indian Americans View India? Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (with Sumitra Badrinathan and Devesh Kapur)

Indian Americans are now the second-largest immigrant group in the United States. Their growing political influence and the role the diaspora plays in Indian foreign policy therefore raises important questions—about how Indian Americans view India, the political changes underway there, and the course of U.S.-India relations.

Op-ed: Hindustan Times

JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY | JANUARY 2021
The Three Faces of the Indian State (with Madhav Khosla)

For more than seven decades, India’s Constitution has provided a framework for liberal democracy to flourish in one of the world’s most diverse societies. Legal changes and shifts in bureaucratic practices, however, have undermined the rule of law, equal citizenship, checks and balances, and democratic accountability.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | OCTOBER 2020
How Will Indian Americans Vote? Results From the 2020 Indian American Attitudes Survey (with Sumitra Badrinathan and Devesh Kapur)

Even though Indian Americans comprise slightly more than 1 percent of the total U.S. population—and less than 1 percent of all registered voters—both major parties are leaving no stone unturned in reaching out to this community. Yet, despite the rising political profile of Indian Americans, their political attitudes are woefully under-studied.

Op-ed: Hindustan Times and Washington Post Monkey Cage

INDIA REVIEW | MAY 2020
Introduction to a special issue of India Review: the consequences of the 2019 Indian general election for politics and policy in India (with Bilal Baloch)

This essay introduces a special issue of India Review on the consequences of the 2019 Indian general election for politics and public policy. The special issue assesses how the 2019 elections will impact four key policy and political domains: the party system, minority rights, the economy, and federalism.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | SEPTEMBER 5, 2019
The Dawn of India’s Fourth Party System (with Jamie Hintson)

With the BJP’s return to power following May 2019 general election, India appears to have ushered in a new dominant party system—one premised on a unique set of political principles, showing a clear break with what came before.

SEMINAR | AUGUST 2019
India’s New Fourth Party System (with Jamie Hintson)

In the wake of the BJP’s second consecutive single party majority in 2019, which comes on the back of significant political changes at the level of India’s states, the available evidence points in one direction

INDIA REVIEW | JULY 2019
Digital India? An email experiment with Indian legislators

Of the many tasks elected representatives perform, constituency service is among the most difficult to observe and, therefore, to measure. However, a burgeoning literature uses digital tools such as email to experimentally evaluate the responsiveness of political elites to requests for constituency service. To date, this literature has overwhelmingly focused on the developed world. In this article, we describe the results of an email experiment in which we sent plausible, but fictitious constituency service requests to national legislators in India to evaluate their responsiveness, helpfulness, and possibly discriminatory behavior. While the overall response rate to our request is quite poor, those that do respond tend to offer “meaningful” responses. We find scant evidence of legislators discriminating on religious lines.

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT | APRIL 4, 2019
The BJP in Power: Indian Democracy and Religious Nationalism (editor)

The upsurge in Hindu nationalism ushered in by Modi’s government is reshaping Indian society, secularism, economics, and diplomacy.

SEMINAR | JANUARY 1, 2019
Political Finance in India: Déjà Vu All Over Again

As the global democratic reform movement is agitating for more transparency, disclosure and openness in political funding, India is rapidly hurtling in the opposite direction. India has earned a reputation for often bucking global trends. But here is one domain where India’s innovation is hardly cause for celebration.

PS: POLITICAL SCIENCE AND POLITICS | JUNE 2018
The Strategic and Moral Imperatives of Local Engagement: Reflections on India (with Tariq Thachil)

Drawing on India, we present two principal arguments for scholars to increase their local engagement. First, we argue that there are solid professional incentives to subject our work to local scrutiny at multiple stages of progress. The second argument is a moral imperative to not simply inform and engage the communities that enable our careers but also to offer them a degree of agency in shaping our research agenda.

STUDIES IN INDIAN POLITICS | APRIL 2018
Does Higher Turnout Hurt Incumbents? An Analysis of State Elections in India (with Johnathan Guy)

Conventional wisdom holds that an increase in voter turnout hurts incumbents in Indian elections. Our analyses show that an increase in turnout, relative to the prior election, has no statistically meaningful relationship with three measures of an incumbent government’s electoral performance. While the belief about the anti-incumbent nature of rising turnout is widely held, it does not appear to be supported by the data.

ASIAN SURVEY | JULY/AUGUST 2017
Ethnic Identifiability in India: Evidence from a Voter Survey

The ethnic politics literature assumes that one’s ethnic identity is readily identifiable. This paper evaluates how well this assumption holds in practice, drawing on a voter survey in the Indian state of Bihar. While voters often misidentify the identity of their candidate, the degree of error is small but systematic.

Op-ed version here

SEMINAR | MAY 1, 2017
India’s Democratic Marketplace for Criminality 

It is more useful to view the relative success of criminal politicians in India as a byproduct of democratic practice, rather than its authoritarian antithesis.

GOVERNANCE | OCTOBER 1, 2016

Why Voters Sometimes Prefer Criminals as Candidates

In democracies around the world, candidates who stand accused or convicted of criminal misconduct routinely win elections and assume important positions. How can crime and democratic politics coexist?

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT  | SEPTEMBER 1, 2015
The Indian Administrative Service Meets Big Data (with Saksham Khosla)

The Indian government should reshape recruitment and promotion processes for the Indian Administrative Service, improve performance-based assessment of individual officers, and adopt safeguards that promote accountability while protecting bureaucrats from political meddling.

One-page summary here
Media coverage: Wire, Governance Now, Press Trust of India, DNA, Firstpost
Op-ed version here

SEMINAR | AUGUST 1, 2016
Exploiting Survey Data (with Neelanjan Sircar)

This article sheds light on three issues that can help determine what we can and cannot learn from election opinion surveys in India.

INDIA REVIEW | SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

Does Good Economics Make Good Politics? Evidence from Indian States (with Reedy Swanson)

The Indian voter weights economic performance more heavily now than in the past.

Media coverage: EconomistWall Street JournalMint, Mint editOutlook
Op-ed version here

INDIA POLICY FORUM | SEPTEMBER 1, 2015
Corruption in India: Bridging Research Evidence and Policy Options (with Sandip Sukhtankar)

The most important thing for combating corruption is not the law on paper but the implementation of the law; the binding constraint, as always, is the government’s desire and ability to punish corrupt officials and politicians.

Media coverage: Times of India
Op-ed version here

CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT PAPER | JUNE 23, 2015
Understanding the Indian Voter

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) historic victory in India’s 2014 general election prompted declarations of a watershed in the behavior of the Indian voter. Upon closer inspection, the reality is more nuanced.

One-page summary here
Op-ed version here

Chapters in Edited Volumes

THE GREAT MARCH OF DEMOCRACY: SEVEN DECADES OF INDIA’S ELECTIONS |  (S.Y. QURAISHI, ED.)  | PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE INDIA | 2019
Confronting the Challenge of Money in Elections

This chapter summarizes a critical challenge facing the Election Commission of India and Indian democracy more generally: the sky-rocketing costs of campaigning. The agenda for reform is clear, but who will take up the challenge?

COSTS OF DEMOCRACY: POLITICAL FINANCE IN INDIA | OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS | 2018
Introduction (with Devesh Kapur)

This chapter serves as an introduction to this edited volume, which seeks to shed light on the methods, sources, and implications of political finance in a major developing country setting—India.

Political Finance in a Developing Democracy: The Case of India (with E. Sridharan)

This chapter surveys the legal and regulatory history of political finance in India, situating it in the context of India’s political economy. It devotes special attention to recent developments, including new reforms implemented by the Modi government in 2017.

Builders, Politicians, and Election Finance in India (with Devesh Kapur)
(Online Appendix here)

A new measure of construction activity reveals evidence that builders in India use their assets to help politicians circumvent election finance laws.

Media coverage: Economist, Washington Post,Wall Street JournalBloomberg View, Mint, Business Standard, Economic Times
Op-ed version here

Note: A previous version of this paper was circulated as a Center for Global Development working paper. Please cite the updated version posted above

Conclusion: Implications for Research and Policy (with Devesh Kapur and E. Sridharan)

This concluding chapter ties together the book’s major themes and offers a roadmap for future policy and research

RETHINKING PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS IN INDIA | OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS | 2017
Introduction (with Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta)

This chapter outlines the analytical framework for the volume, situating the book’s inquiry of India’s institutional foundations in the larger context of the multiple transformations the country has experienced since 1947.

Election Commission of India (with E. Sridharan)

This chapter examines the evolution of one of the world’s most powerful elections bodies, the Election Commission of India (ECI).

THE NEW MIDDLE CLASS: DATA AND PERCEPTIONS (DAWID BARTELT AND AXEL HARNEIT-SIEVERS, EDS.) | 2017
The Importance of Being Middle Class in India (with Devesh Kapur and Neelanjan Sircar)

This chapter analyzes new survey data on the “self-identification” of the middle class in India and tests whether positive self-identification is associated with distinct views on economic and social mobility.

CHECKBOOK ELECTIONS? POLITICAL FINANCE IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE (PIPPA NORRIS & ANDREA ABEL VAN ES, EDS.)OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS | JUNE 2016
India (with E. Sridharan)

This chapter outlines the evolution of India’s political finance regime over the past several decades, with a focus on the key developments that have shaped the system as it currently exists.

Policy brief here

GETTING INDIA BACK ON TRACK (BIBEK DEBROY, ASHLEY J. TELLIS, & RECE TREVOR, EDS.)  | CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE | JUNE 2014
Strengthening Rule of Law (with Devesh Kapur)

In India, the rule of law that exists on paper does not always exist in practice.

Op-ed version here

Book Reviews

POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY | AUGUST 28, 2013
Book Review: India Today: Economics, Politics and Society

It is easy to be awestruck by the sweeping changes that have transformed India’s political economy in recent decades. But these changes, paradoxically, are taking place amidst a great deal of continuity.

STUDIES IN INDIAN POLITICS | JULY 3, 2013
Book Review: India Since 1980

In their important new account of a pivotal period in Indian history, Sumit Ganguly and Rahul Mukherji sometimes overemphasize the changes that have taken place, overlooking sources of stagnation in Indian politics.

Work in Progress

Backsliding in India? The Weakening of Referee Institutions in Rachel Beatty Riedl, Ken Roberts, Tom Pepinsky, and Valerie Bunce, eds. Global Challenges to Democracy: Cross-Regional Perspectives (in progress)

Global concerns about democratic malaise have not left India untouched. Analysts point to three new trends—rising majoritarianism, the concentration of executive power, and curbs on dissent—as threats to India’s longstanding liberal democratic credentials. Such shifts have fed anxieties that India risks becoming an “elections-only” democracy. This paper evaluates the institutional guardrails protecting India’s liberal, democratic commitments, focusing on referee institutions that promote government accountability and level the playing field for incumbents and challengers. In the face of a dominant executive, these institutions have atrophied through a combination of deference, interference, and neglect. As a result, executive power has greatly expanded. The Indian case suggests a paradox: institutional checks and balances have functioned most effectively when they are less needed (when the party system is fragmented) and least effectively when needed the most (when a single party is dominant).

Criminalization, Political Parties, and India’s Political Economy in K.K. Kailash, Sanjay Kumar, Suhas Palshikar, and Sandeep Shastri, eds., Handbook of Political Parties in India (in progress)

In India, a well-known nexus between crime and politics has flourished in recent decades. More than four in ten Members of Parliament elected in 2019 entered office with at least one pending criminal case. Nearly three in ten are implicated in a case with serious charges which, if a conviction were obtained, could merit significant jail time. Political parties play a central role in the consolidation of this nexus since they are, in the vast majority of cases, the entities responsible for nominating candidates with criminal antecedents. This chapter examines the criminalization of politics through the lens of political parties. In particular, it explores four questions. First, why do political parties give tickets to candidates with well-known criminal reputations? Second, how do parties vary— if at all—in terms of their relationship to criminality? Third, what are the specific routes leading to criminality in politics? Finally, what impact does criminalization of politics have on political parties and India’s political economy more broadly? The chapter concludes by suggesting a research agenda for further study of the criminal-politician nexus.

Elections and the Indian Constitution (with E. Sridharan) in Gautam Bhatia, Aparna Chandra, and Niraja Gopal Jayal, eds., The Cambridge Companion to the Constitution of India (in progress)

Among developing nations, India has distinguished itself on account of its enduring democratic record. While the substantive content of democracy between elections is often lacking, India’s legal and procedural commitments to free and fair elections have been considered sacrosanct. However, India’s electoral resilience is not above scrutiny. Despite India’s electoral vibrancy, its laws, regulations, and practices governing elections operate in a deeply contested space. This chapter illuminates the sources of India’s electoral resilience while also describing the challenges facing the prevailing electoral order. To do so, it focuses attention on five critical issues: the functioning of the Election Commission of India, voter participation, candidate requirements, political parties, and the regulation of political finance.

Political Finance in India in Sumit Ganguly and E. Sridharan, eds., The Oxford Handbook on Indian Politics (in progress)

This chapter evaluates India’s political finance regime and analyses how the approaches of political actors and bureaucratic institutions have evolved over time. Despite the existence of one of the world’s most powerful elections bodies – the Election Commission of India (ECI) – India has struggled mightily to counter the rising tide of money in politics. Several factors have collided to create, in essence, a perfect storm.