Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Political Participation in Rural India: A Village Level Study

Borooah, Vani and tagat, Anirudh (2015): Political Participation in Rural India: A Village Level Study. Published in: State Institutions and Democracy (Schofield and Cabalerro eds), Springer No. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-44582-3 (2016): pp. 159-192.

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This paper uses village level data on individual voters to ask what are the factors which determine the probability of whether an individual votes? Is this probability greater for national compared to local elections? And is there evidence that people are more likely to vote today than they were in the past? Allied to these questions is another set of questions relating to the choice of candidates. What are the factors that make for women’s autonomy in voting, meaning that they cast their vote without reference to their spousal instructions? What are the factors which contribute to people voting for candidates who are of their own caste? And, lastly, what are the factors which contribute to people voting for candidates who have a reputation for honesty and fairness? Needless to say, voting in elections is just one facet of political participation. Another might be attending and participating in political meetings. This is particularly relevant in Indian villages since the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act of 1993. This made it mandatory for all villages to have a village council (hereafter, Gram Sabha) consisting of all registered voters on the electoral roll of a village. The Gram Sabha was to be entrusted with the power of supervising the functioning of the elected village panchayat and to approve the panchayat’s development plan for the village and the associated budget. Consequently, in addition to voting, electors in villages had another form of political participation: they could attend Gram Sabha meetings and also participate in its discussions. This paper also analyses the factors which determine attendance and participation in such meetings. A worrisome feature of the results was the high proportion of married women reporting that they cast their vote according to their husbands’ instructions and further that, this proportion was impervious to the education level of the women. Women’s education would not appear, from these results, to reduce the power of patriarchy. Another source of anxiety was the gender gap in the proportion of men and women who took part in Gram Sabha discussions. This would suggest that the reservation of village panchayat positions (including that of panchayat pradhan, or village president) for women was a step in the right direction for the empowerment of women. In contrast, there were no inter-social group differences in participation in Gram Sabha meetings.

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