The Market for Criminality: Money, Muscle and Elections in India

Posted: 17 Sep 2011

See all articles by Milan Vaishnav

Milan Vaishnav

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Date Written: August 31, 2011


In many developing democracies, the prevalence of politicians with criminal records raises questions about why parties recruit such candidates to contest elections. Building on a strand of the political selection literature that emphasizes a party’s desire for “rents,” I argue that parties are attracted to candidates with criminal records because they have access to independent sources of wealth that allow them to function as self-financing candidates. Drawing on a unique dataset of Indian politicians that contains information on virtually the entire universe of candidates to state office between 2003 and 2009, this paper finds strong support for the proposition that money and “muscle” are complements. These findings are robust to a range of alternative explanations; additional covariates; alternate measures; and additional testing using data from national-level parliamentary candidates. The results of this study raise interesting questions about the connections between money politics, legislative malfeasance, and democratic accountability.

Keywords: accountability, criminality, corruption, election finance, money politics, India

Suggested Citation

Vaishnav, Milan, The Market for Criminality: Money, Muscle and Elections in India (August 31, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Milan Vaishnav (Contact Author)

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace ( email )

1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States


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