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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.

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Paper provided by Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge in its series Cambridge Working Papers in Economics with number 1157.

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Date of creation: 18 Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:1157
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  1. Uppal, Yogesh, 2007. "The Disadvantaged Incumbents: Estimating Incumbency Effects in Indian State Legislatures," MPRA Paper 8515, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Irma Clots-Figueras, 2005. "Women in politics: evidence from the Indian states," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19294, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. Micahael Tomz & Jason Wittenberg & Gary King, . "Clarify: Software for Interpreting and Presenting Statistical Results," Journal of Statistical Software, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(i01).
  6. 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.
  7. Hamlin, Alan & Jennings, Colin, 2009. "Expressive Political Behaviour: Foundations, Scope and Implications," SIRE Discussion Papers 2009-41, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  8. Matthieu Chemin, 2008. "Do Criminals Politicians Reduce Corruption? Evidence from India," Cahiers de recherche 0825, CIRPEE.
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