Ronald Herring, expert in political ecology and professor of government in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University, explains how corruption played a role in the UPA government loss, despite making greater efforts on behalf of the poor majority than previous regimes.
“We often talk of a ‘misery index’ – inflation plus unemployment – that dooms governments at the polls, whether or not they are responsible. The numbers for the UPA government on the economy were certainly of concern to voters, but not all that bad by historic standards.
“All the pre-poll survey research showed one governance issue to be most on the minds of voters: corruption. The political class takes a slice not only of promised benefits but also of people’s earned income. These extractions affect the poor most significantly, as they are less socially connected and less able to buy off politicians who could intervene on their behalf.
“For the poor majority in India, rules in Delhi may not make a huge difference. There is no macroeconomic silver-bullet magic. What is perhaps more important for the 99 percent is a new political culture of rejecting the political class per se – its arrogance and corruption.
“Whether the BJP government will do any better at taking on board this lesson remains to be seen.”
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