Workshop on The Political Effects of Programmatic Development Policy : Can Bihar Break the Clientist Trap?
22 Jul 2017

Patna, 22 July. Poverty makes voters vulnerable to domination by politicians, pushing them into a ‘clientelist trap’ where their vote fails to hold government accountable. Despite this, Bihar has experienced a decade of extensive governance reforms. But the sustainability of governance reforms remains uncertain. Will voters continue to vote for development (‘sushashan’) in the future, once the current administration has left office? While the economic and social effects of new policies have been studied, their political effects have not. These are the views of Jonathan Phillips, Harvard University while he was addressing a workshop on The Political Effects of Programmatic Development Policy : Can Bihar Break the Clientelist Trap? organised by IGC Bihar at ADRI today.

The project demonstrated some key differences in the political attitudes of citizens in each state. First, Biharis have much stronger expectations of good governance and accountability – they expect corrupt elites to be caught and punished, and for other voters to vote against politicians who do not provide better public services. Second, personalised political networks have become weaker, suggesting the pressures of clientelism have reduced. Third, there is little evidence that the deeper attitudes of citizens towards clientelism, corrupt practices and identity politics have changed. Finally, and surprisingly, politics in Bihar is marked by less trust and political participation than in Jharkhand, suggesting that governance reforms may reduce the political engagement of voters.

If Bihar is to surprise the world again and embed sustainable governance reforms it will need to transition from policy reforms to institutional reforms that anchor a long-term shift in citizens' attitudes, expectations and behaviour.

Dr. Shaibal Gupta, Country Co-Director, IGC-Bihar introduced the subject in his opening remarks. Shree A K Chauhan, State Election Commissioner, Bihar presided over the session. Prominent among the participants were — Shree J S Gangwar, IG (Special Branch), Shree Satyajit Singh, Dr. Pradeep Kant Chaudhary, Shree Anil Kishore Choudhary, IG (W.S) (CID), Dr. Sunita Lall and others member from the government and academia. Professor Prabhat P Ghosh, Director, ADRI proposed the vote of thanks.