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Incumbents and Criminals in the Indian National Legislature


  • Aidt, T.
  • Golden, M. A.
  • Tiwari, D.


Utilizing data on criminal charges lodged against candidates to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of representatives, we study the conditions that resulted in approximately a quarter of members of parliament elected in 2004 and in 2009 facing or having previously faced criminal charges. Our results document that Indian political parties are more likely to select alleged criminal candidates when confronting greater electoral uncertainty and in parliamentary constituencies whose populations exhibit lower levels of literacy. We interpret the decisions of political parties to enlist known criminals as candidates as a function of the capacity of these candidates to intimidate voters. To substantiate this, we show that criminal candidates depress electoral turnout. In addition, our results suggest that India’s well-known incumbency disadvantage stems from the superior electoral performance of allegedly criminal candidates, who drive parliamentary incumbents from office. Our study raises questions for democratic theory, which claims that electoral competition improves accountability, and for the future of the Indian polity, which is experiencing a growing criminalization of the national political arena.

Suggested Citation

  • Aidt, T. & Golden, M. A. & Tiwari, D., 2011. "Incumbents and Criminals in the Indian National Legislature," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1157, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:1157

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthieu Chemin, 2008. "Do Criminals Politicians Reduce Corruption? Evidence from India," Cahiers de recherche 0825, CIRPEE.
    2. Hamlin, Alan & Jennings, Colin, 2011. "Expressive Political Behaviour: Foundations, Scope and Implications," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(03), pages 645-670, July.
    3. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451.
    4. Clots-Figueras, Irma, 2011. "Women in politics: Evidence from the Indian States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 664-690, August.
    5. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan, 2008. "Exposing Corrupt Politicians: The Effects of Brazil's Publicly Released Audits on Electoral Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 703-745.
    6. Yogesh Uppal, 2009. "The disadvantaged incumbents: estimating incumbency effects in Indian state legislatures," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 138(1), pages 9-27, January.
    7. Tomz, Michael & Wittenberg, Jason & King, Gary, 2003. "Clarify: Software for Interpreting and Presenting Statistical Results," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 8(i01).
    8. Ritva Reinikka & Jakob Svensson, 2005. "Fighting Corruption to Improve Schooling: Evidence from a Newspaper Campaign in Uganda," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 259-267, 04/05.
    9. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
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    Blog mentions

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    1. China, India and All That
      by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in Why Nations Fail on 2012-11-02 20:00:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Dutta, Bhaskar & Gupta, Poonam, 2012. "How Do Indian Voters Respond to Candidates with Criminal Charges : Evidence from the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections," MPRA Paper 38417, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Dutta, Bhaskar & Gupta, Poonam, 2012. "How Indian Voters Respond to Candidates with Criminal Charges: Evidence from the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections," Working Papers 12/109, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
    3. repec:aea:aejapp:v:9:y:2017:i:3:p:105-23 is not listed on IDEAS

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