Political representation in India: the Indian legislators project

Funded by the UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix and Sciences Po Collaboration Grant, this project involves a team of investigators led by Jennifer Bussell and Thad Dunning (UC Berkeley) and Christophe Jaffrelot at CERI.

The project integrates previous major data collection efforts by the principal investigators on the nature of political representation in India, in particular, on the sociological backgrounds and responsiveness to constituents of national and state legislators in India :

- the work of Christophe Jaffrelot on Sociological profiles of Indian politicians, consisting on creating and updating a major database on the sociological profile of Indian national and state legislators, including information on caste, class, gender, and family backgrounds. These data are critical for assessing trends in the democratization of political and descriptive representation in India and also allow assessment of legislators' political trajectories, for instance, the extent to which they shift from one party to another or belong to dynastic political families.

- Jennifer Bussell's research on political representation, service delivery, and the political economy of corruption in India. Using qualitative shadowing of legislators, cross-state surveys of politicians, bureaucrats, and citizens, and a large-scale field experiment with state and national legislators, she shows that providing assistance to individual constituents with assistance accessing basic state services is a predominant activity of many high-level Indian politicians.

- Thad Dunning's study of partisanship and local resource distribution, analyzing the distributional impact of political reservations (electoral quotas for marginalized castes) in village councils in India to highlight the limitations of existing work emphasizing ethnic bonds and instead showing that partisan ties to local politicians have important effects for citizens' receipt of state resources.

This new collaborative research intends to focus on the relationship between the sociological profile of legislators and the ways in which they respond to and represent their constituents. Overall, the goal is to combine the team members' previous separate efforts to produce a more comprehensive understanding of the ways in which social background does, and does not, affect the manner by which Indian politicians engage with their constituents and serve as effective representatives. It is expected that this research may serve as a starting point for a broader research agenda on the political behavior of India's legislators, writ large.