The 73rd amendment to the Indian Constitution launched an extensive experiment in local democracy. Based on a study of 2,794 gram panchayats and field observations in West Bengal, this article examines when and why popular participation in panchayat elections—the most basic and visible aspect of local democracy—differs across local governments. The study finds that gram panchayats witness high levels of participation when they pursue policies that benefit the villagers, such as greater investment in education, and when they are seemingly less corrupt. Investment in public goods and lower rents are known to promote economic development and general welfare. In addition to these familiar implications, this study shows how these policies also have political consequences for democracy in India.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations