Book review: Devesh Kapur & Milan Vaishnav, Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India

AuthorNitesh Rai
Date01 September 2020
Published date01 September 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 433
issue of immigration, how it has been politicised and used as a political strategy
by different quarters, instead of averting its effects on the rights of the indigenous
people of Assam. So, the Post Colonial Assam includes description of the chroni-
cle of events that have shaped the present politics of Assam and which can be
interpreted by looking through the lens of complex ethnic and political landscape
of the state.
Phulmoni Das
Independent Researcher, PhD from Dibrugarh University,
Assam Former Assistant Professor (On Lien), Department of
Political Science, Dibrugarh University
Devesh Kapur & Milan Vaishnav, Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in
India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 311 pp., `750.
DOI: 10.1177/0019556120945999
Elections are considered to be the hallmark of democracy. Free and fair periodic
elections ensure that people choose their representatives who, in effect, would
ensure that the voice of the ordinary people is reflected in the policymaking process.
What if the choice of voters is restricted? What if an ordinary individual with good
intent does not find the whole process of election conducive? Money in elections is
an impediment which prohibits candidates with small capital to contest with those
who can bear huge expenditure, afford illicit finance to influence voters and can-
didate selection process. It is an undisputable fact that elections are gradually being
more expensive. The scholars in this book unanimously agree that illicit finance to
influence the electoral outcome can seriously threaten the legitimacy of electoral
democracy. This book has explored conventional and non-conventional methods
of money flow in elections. There are seven chapters in the book that discuss the
different aspects of the role of money in elections.
The scholars in this book have adopted various methodologies to analyse
the connection between the role of money and elections in India. Ethnography,
comparative study, empirical data, survey, interviews and archival research are
the methods employed by the scholars to investigate how electoral democracy is
being affected by the use of money.
Eswaran Sridharan and Milan Vaishnav in the chapter ‘Political Finance in a
Developing Democracy: The Case of India’, have primarily employed the compara-
tive method and compared the reforms carried by the Election Commission of India
(ECI) and the Parliament since 1947 until 2017. They highlight the fact that though
India has a very powerful constitutional institution called Election Commission,
which acts as a constitutional body to conduct free and fair elections, various guide-
lines provided by the ECI are violated, and rules regarding capping of financial
expenditure are one of them. ECI has limited the maximum amount of money (`70
lakh, as of now) that can be used by a candidate during his/her election campaign
in order to curb the money power and ensure that equal opportunity is available

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