Book review: Tarangini Sriraman. In Pursuit of Proof

Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
AuthorTariq Thachil
Subject MatterBook Reviews
14INP874918_rev1.indd Book Reviews
exchange of votes for money, distortion of electoral representation takes place through candidate
selection processes, which impacts the larger contours of electoral competition itself.
In their co-authored chapter tracing the history of political finance regime in India, E. Sridharan and
Milan Vaishnav see political finance as ultimately ‘a collective action problem’ calling for the ‘right
alignment of incentives’ among political parties and donors. It is not clear, however, how an effective
alliance for collective action can possibly be achieved in a context where the decreased certainty of
capture of state power due to the proliferation of political actors would lower the incentive to bargain.
The other possibility the authors offer is of a political consensus of the kind witnessed in the emergence
of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). Interestingly, however, the political consensus implicit in the
MCC suggests a political morality of a kind that is different from the rational choice action demanded by
collective action problem solving. It may also, as in the case of MCC, have the consequence of buttres-
sing the regulatory powers of the Election Commission.
On the other hand, the journey of political finance mapped by Sridharan and Vaishnav as one from the
‘corrupt equilibrium’ which existed in India till the 1990, to what could possibly be an ‘inflection point’
in 2017 with the introduction of anonymous electoral bonds, shows a movement towards opacity rather
than transparency, and the weakening of the ECI’s power of oversight. The conclusion of the volume by
Kapur, Sridharan and Vaishnav identifies the various fronts on which reforms are required. It would be
important to see how the ‘grand bargain’ that the authors propose for a strict regulation of the electoral
domain to curb the distortionary impact of money on Indian politics can actually materialize in a context
where both crime and money have become indispensable...

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