ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Local Democracy and Clientelism: Implications for Political Stability in Rural West Bengal

This paper examines factors underlying the unusual stability of political power in rural West Bengal, using data pertaining to the functioning of local democracy from a household survey conducted by the authors during 2003-05. It examines patterns of political awareness, participation, distribution of benefits by gram panchayats, and voting across households of varying socio-economic characteristics. The main findings are that (i) political participation was high on average; (ii) within villages panchayat benefits flowed to poor and scheduled caste/scheduled tribe groups on par or better, compared with the rest of the population; (iii) distribution of benefits across villages was biased against those with more landless households; and (iv) the lasting political success of the Left owed partly to a clientelist relationship of the party with the voters, and partly to the gratitude of voters of low socio-economic status arising out of broad-based changes.

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