Corruption not only has become a pervasive aspect of Indian politics but also has become an increasingly important factor in Indian elections. The extensive role of the Indian state in providing services and promoting economic development has always created the opportunity for using public resources for private benefit. As government regulation of business was extended in the 1960s and corporate donations were banned in 1969, trading economic favors for under-the-table contributions to political parties became an increasingly widespread political practice. During the 1980s and 1990s, corruption became associated with the occupants of the highest echelons of India's political system. Rajiv Gandhi's government was rocked by scandals, as was the government of P.V. Narasimha Rao. Politicians have become so closely identified with corruption in the public eye that a Times of India poll of 1,554 adults in six metropolitan cities found that 98 percent of the public is convinced that politicians and ministers are corrupt, with 85 percent observing that corruption is on the increase.
The prominence of political corruption in the 1990s is hardly unique to India. Other countries also have experienced corruption that has rocked their political systems. What is remarkable about India is the persistent anti-incumbent sentiment among its electorate. Since Indira's victory in her 1971 "garibi hatao " election, only one ruling party has been reelected to power in the central government. In an important sense, the exception proves the rule because the Congress (I) won reelection in 1984 in no small measure because the electorate saw in Rajiv Gandhi a "Mr. Clean" who would lead a new generation of politicians in cleansing the political system. Anti-incumbent sentiment is just as strong at the state level, where the ruling parties of all political persuasions in India's major states lost eleven of thirteen legislative assembly elections held from 1991 through spring 1995.
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