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Title: Crisis, credibility, and corruption : how ideas and institutions shape government behaviour in India
Author: Baloch, Bilal Ali
ISNI:       0000 0004 6494 0202
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Anti-corruption movements play a vital role in democratic development. From the American Gilded Age to global demonstrations in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, these movements seek to combat malfeasance in government and improve accountability. While this collective action remains a constant, how government elites perceive and respond to such agitation, varies. My dissertation tackles this puzzle head-on: Why do some democratic governments respond more tolerantly than others to anti-corruption movements? To answer this research question, I examine variation across time in two cases within the world’s largest democracy: India. I compare the Congress Party government's suppressive response to the Jayaprakash Narayan movement in 1975, and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s tolerant response to the India Against Corruption movement in 2012. For developing democracies such as India, comparativist scholarship gives primacy to external, material interests – such as votes and rents – as proximately shaping government behavior. Although these logics explain elite decision-making around elections and the predictability of pork barrel politics, they fall short in explaining government conduct during credibility crises, such as when facing nationwide anti-corruption movements. In such instances of high political uncertainty, I argue, it is the absence or presence of an ideological checks and balance mechanism among decision-making elites in government that shapes suppression or tolerance respectively. This mechanism is produced from the interaction between structure (multi-party coalition) and agency (divergent cognitive frames in positions of authority). In this dissertation, elites analyze the anti-corruption movement and form policy prescriptions based on their frames around social and economic development as well as their concepts of the nation. My research consists of over 110 individual interviews with state elites, including the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, party leaders, and senior bureaucrats among other officials for the contemporary case; and a broad compilation of private letters, diplomatic cables and reports, and speeches collected from three national archives for the historical study. To my knowledge this is the first data-driven study of Indian politics that precisely demonstrates how ideology acts as a constraint on government behavior in a credibility crisis. On a broader level, my findings contribute to the recently renewed debate in political science as to why democracies sometimes behave illiberally.
Supervisor: Bermeo, Nancy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: South Asia ; Authoritarianism ; Social Movements ; Social Conditions ; India ; Development ; Public policy ; Democracy ; History ; Government behaviour ; Economic Conditions ; Corruption ; Politics and government ; Liberal ; Protests ; Ideology ; Arvind Kejriwal ; United Progressive Alliance ; Indira Gandhi ; Populism ; Anna Hazare ; Indian National Congress ; Elites ; Manmohan Singh ; Reform ; Jayaprakash Narayan ; Decision-making ; Right-wing