Patronage guaranteed? Public policy reform, informal institutions and distributive politics in rural Uttar Pradesh

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Do political entrepreneurs always capture public resources for political benefit? This dissertation examines the variation in the implementation of the Right to Work legislation in rural India, a major plank in the state's poverty alleviation strategy. The introduction of new legislation in 2005 to guarantee employment to the rural poor represents a radical shift in India. The Right to Work -- as the legislation is known -- not only results in the channeling of public resources on a large scale across the country, but promotes the exercise of citizenship through claim--making and public deliberation at the level of village communities. My research demonstrates that the variation in outcomes reflects political interference at the local level, where the demand for benefits is expected to emerge. In contrast with existing explanations which emphasize the role played by political parties or the salience of ethnic cleavages, I show that parties do not play a role in the activation of the demand. Instead, local elected officials proceed to a selective activation of the demand in response to demand for rents from the bureaucracy. The dissertation explores two hypotheses to account for the variation in policy outcomes at the local level, looking on the one hand at the relationship between employment generation levels and indicators of structural poverty and exploring the articulation of the demand for work at the village, block and district level in India. In doing so, the dissertation uses quantitative analysis tools such as correlation analysis and a number of qualitative tools, such as semi--structured interviews and participant observation. The dissertation primarily relies on national census data, public data on the implementation of the Right to Work along with qualitative data collected over 15 months of intensive fieldwork in a rural district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

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Political Parties; Asia; Poverty Alleviation; Political science; Institutions; India; patronage


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Union Local


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Herring, Ronald J.

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Roberts, Kenneth
van de Walle, Nicolas
Pepinsky, Thomas

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Ph. D., Government

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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