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Post-clientelistic initiatives in a patronage democracy: The distributive politics of India’s MGNREGA

Upasak Das and Diego Maiorano

World Development, 2019, vol. 117, issue C, 239-252

Abstract: This article analyzes the distributive politics of India’s (and the world’s) largest workfare program, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. We use a unique dataset that includes census and MGNREGA implementation data at the single-constituency level for the state of Andhra Pradesh (2009–17) across an entire election cycle (2009–14). Using regression analysis, we find that the ruling party does not use the program to buy votes neither in swing, nor in core areas of support, as we find the distribution of jobs to be ‘post-clientelistic’. We explain this result – surprising in a ‘patronage democracy’ – with the lobbying power of big farmers, an important special interest group in India’s political economy. Our analysis also shows that the ruling party’s distributive strategy consists of compressing job generation in core constituencies, in order to expand expenditure on materials needed for the execution of the projects. In this way, the ruling party can channel resources to contractors, who fund the electoral campaign of the party in return as our qualitative evidence suggests. The article reinforces arguments that predict that political parties will target core areas of support and develops a bi-dimensional model of clientelism that highlights the role of contractors and opaque electoral rules in determining distributive strategies.

Keywords: Clientelism; Mixed methods; Patronage democracy; MGNREGA; India; Andhra Pradesh (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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