UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays on Indian economic development and political change Nishant, Chadha


Post independence Indian politics was dominated by one party, the Indian National Congress. The first serious challenge to the Congress emerged in the late 1960s, in the form of peasant parties in north India, the Bhartiya Lok Dal (BLD). By the late 1980's the Congress had considerably weakened, and a new wave of parties emerged, this time based in ethnic identity, the right wing Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the low caste Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). This thesis studies the role that economic changes played in the emergence of these parties and some economic effects of these political developments. The first research chapter empirically investigates the role of the Green revolution (adoption of new seed varieties) in the political mobilization of peasants and the emergence of the BLD. The emergence of the BSP led to the strengthening of the low caste political network. Access to this new network gave low caste people increased bargaining power over corrupt officials. The effect that this had is the subject of the second chapter. I find that the emergence of the BSP leads to increased influence of low caste households over corrupt officials and reduction in the bribes they pay. The last chapter studies the sharp increase in support for ethnic parties, the BJP and BSP, between the period 1989-96. It specifically investigates whether these increases were related to ethnic polarization. I uncover a positive relationship. During this time period more polarized districts experienced greater increases in the support for ethnic parties. The main contribution of this thesis lies in postulating and finding evidence for the relationship between economic and political changes in India in the recent past.

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