Devesh Tiwari

Comparative politics; Indian politics; Political parties; Clientelism; Coalition politics

Dissertation Title: Party Politics and Criminality in India

Description: My dissertation examines the politics of criminality in India.  In particular, it proposes and empirically tests a theory that explains why parties in India tend to nominate candidates that have criminal records and candidates with substantial personal wealth. Political parties in India lack a strong reputation for delivering programmatic goods and as a result, political competition centers on their ability to mobilize voters through the distribution of material benefits and other selective inducements. I argue that, as a result, parties favor candidates with criminal records or personal wealth because of they have the means to engage in vote buying, mobilize clientelistic networks, and engage in voter intimidation. Parties differ, however, in their ability to attract candidates. High-quality candidates prefer to be nominated by strong parties. Analyzing state level election data between 2003 and 2013, I find that there is a significant and substantively meaningful relationship between party strength and its propensity to nominate criminal candidates. These results show that party leaders act strategically: when they have the ability to win elections without using criminal candidates, they do not nominate them. However, in a polity where there are very few party strongholds, there is a space for criminals in the political system. Thus, in political environments where elections are highly competitive but where parties are weak, democratic competition leads to the nomination of candidates with normatively bad attributes.

Committee: Kaare Strom (Co-chair), Miriam A. Golden (Co-chair, UCLA), Julian Betts (UCSD Economics), Clark Gibson, Sebastian Saiegh, Matthew Shugart (UC-Davis)