This essay studies the evolution of India's anticorruption machinery and discourses of corruption from the 1940s to the 1960s as a tussle between the logics of bureaucracy and democracy playing out as part of decolonization. Anticorruption began as a way of safeguarding the British Government of India's war effort from wayward officials pilfering supplies. As the postcolonial government retooled coercive wartime laws and empowered an increasing number of bureaucrats to manage the economy for developmental purposes, anticorruption evolved into a key demonstration of accountability by the state to the Indian people. Meanwhile, discourses of corruption became increasingly politically potent as India's imperial subjects became voting citizens. These discourses created pressure for a reform of the anticorruption machinery. But the mechanisms resisted full democratization and continued to privilege the executive branch as they had in colonial times. Anticorruption mechanisms became used to subdue challenges to power that took place. They were themselves corrupted.

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