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Growing Cleavages in India? Evidence from the Changing Structure of Party Electorates, 1962-2014

Abstract : This paper combines surveys, election results and social spending data to document the long-run evolution of political cleavages in India. From a dominantparty system featuring the Indian National Congress as the main actor of the mediation of political conflicts, Indian politics have gradually come to include a number of smaller regionalist parties and, more recently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). These changes coincide with the rise of religious divisions and the persistence of strong caste-based cleavages, while education, income and occupation play little role (controlling for caste) in determining voters’ choices. We find no evidence that India’s new party system has been associated with changes in social policy. While BJP-led states are generally characterized by a smaller social sector, switching to a party representing upper castes or upper classes has no significant effect on social spending. We interpret this as evidence that voters seem to be less driven by straightforward economic interests than by sectarian interests and cultural priorities. In India, as in many Western democracies, political conflicts have become increasingly focused on identity and religious-ethnic conflicts rather than on tangible material benefits and class-based redistribution.
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Abhijit Banerjee, Amory Gethin, Thomas Piketty. Growing Cleavages in India? Evidence from the Changing Structure of Party Electorates, 1962-2014. 2019. ⟨hal-02877001⟩

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