Chapter 13 – POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, CLIENTELISM AND TARGETING OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS: Results from a Rural Household Survey in West Bengal, India[1]

Pranab Bardhan[2], Sandip Mitra[3], Dilip Mookherjee[4] and Abhirup Sarkar[5]


This paper provides evidence concerning political participation (turnout, awareness, attendance at meetings, campaign involvement, voting) and its relation to local governance (targeting of public services) in a developing country, based on a rural household survey in West Bengal, India. We find that reported participation rates varied remarkably little with socio-economic status, with the exception of education and immigrant status. Within villages, benefits disbursed by local governments displayed no relation to wealth, caste, education, gender or political affiliations. In contrast, allocation of benefits across villages by higher-level governments displayed bias against the poor; these biases were larger in villages with more unequal landownership and lower participation rates in village meetings. Political support among voters for the dominant Left party was positively correlated with receipt of recurring benefits and help provided by local governments in times of personal need, but not long-term one-time benefits or local public goods provided.


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