Politician’s pain is poor man’s gain: Income distribution in close-election constituencies

Dr Anirban Mitra

“Studies have highlighted the role of electoral competition in directing the flow of public funds. Analysing data from India, this column finds lower income inequality and polarisation in tightly contested constituencies, implying that the poor gain more from electoral competition relative to the rich.

Accountability is central to the concept of democracy. Elected politicians are answerable to their constituencies. Moreover, they have the authority and wherewithal to affect the economic conditions of the citizens in the constituencies. This is because political power necessarily comes with some control of the purse strings: targeting of government schemes (be it welfare or employment generation or poverty alleviation), and provision of local public goods and services (health facilities, schools, road construction, public lighting, etc.). While the former can directly influence the economic prosperity of citizens, the latter does so in more indirect and subtle ways…”

This is an excerpt from an article published in Ideas for India on 9 November 2016 by the School’s Dr Anirban Mitra and Dr Shabana Mitra of the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore.

The article also appeared in India’s Business Standard on 8 November 20176.