Role of Political Activists in Clientelistic Settings: Evidence from an Indian Public Works Program
30th March, 2017 (Thursday) at 3:00 PM
Venue : Seminar Room (First Floor)
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics
All are cordially invited
In a setting of clientelistic politics where ruling politicians make preferential transfers to bolster political support, our model introduces a new voter identity: political activists who are influential and potentially change the political allegiance of other voters. Given these new players, do politicians now offer transfers only to target swing voters who choose political affiliation when presented with transfers, or also to "convert" activists who can indirectly influence others? Using novel household data, we provide first empirical evidence on this from the implementation of a decentralized workfare program, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in India. Exploiting the timing of our survey which uniquely captures household political affiliation before they received work under the program, our results show that while political leaders preferentially target unaffiliated electors and rival-party affiliates as expected, they also target activists, particularly in areas where citizen involvement in politics is less common and intuitively so because there is a higher bang for politicians funds in terms of the activists sphere of influence in these areas. Our results are robust to addressing potential sample-selection issues, as well the various definitions of "activism''.