Why Money Speaks at the Ballot

Mumbai, 15 February 2017:  Milan Vaishnav joined Asia Society India Centre at the Nehru Center in Mumbai to give a fascinating presentation on the main themes and contents of his newest book “When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics”. Speaking to a packed room, Vaishnav brilliantly walked the audience through the corridors of the crime-politics nexus that ails India, and offered incisive and thoughtful insight into the history, causes, and future of crime in Indian politics. Using the metaphor of “politics as a marketplace”, Vaishnav elaborated on the variables that lead political parties to supply their constituents with political candidates with criminal backgrounds and voters to look favorably on criminal backgrounds as signs of “strong leadership”, and therefore create a greater demand for such leaders. Vaishnav used compelling data and interactions with voters in the field to flip several cases of conventional wisdom on their head, especially the notion that citizens vote for criminals only because they are not fully apprised of their backgrounds and histories, and that voters actually see criminal backgrounds as a positive electoral attribute. Mr. Vaishnav made acute connections between this demand for strongmen and more capable governance, no matter the means taken to achieve it, with similar trends and manifestations in other countries. Mr. Vaishnav’s presentation was followed by a stimulating interview by Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, executive editor of Mint magazine, that dealt with everything from the way that Vaishnav’s interactions with voters in the field shaped the book, to the transformation of criminals as middle-men in the Indian political process to office holding officials, to potential solutions and steps that could be taken moving forward. A Q&A with the audience likewise followed, with the audience eager to engage with the author on the claims and contentions of the book. The enthusiasm of the audience and the clarity and articulation of the speaker made for a thrilling, stimulating night of presentation and discussion. 

As reported by Brian L Osgood, Intern, Asia Society India Centre


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