Today’s piece in the New York Times on the UP elections is particularly interesting in that it raises an important issue for political scientists: that of who gets credit for what?
The federal structure of governance in India makes this question particularly elusive and elicits sometimes confusing answers. In the district where I conducted research in 2015, the marked improvement in roads and infrastructure was often attributed to the change in majority in Delhi, even though most infrastructure projects take years to materialize. The case of the Lucknow-Bahraich road, which is a national highway is revealing. While it was completed in late 2015, it was originally approved and funded by the Congress-led UPA government.
The disappointment with Modi as reported in the piece below does not necessarily mean that voters do not neatly understand the mechanics of legislation and policy implementation (casual discussions reveal that they do, often to a surprising level). For instance, the demonetization has been largely blamed on the Modi government (even though BJP supporters are more likely than non-supporters to say that the common man was not affected…). And the rampant corruption and the poor state of infrastructure rightly attributed to Akhilesh Sarkar. While the central government pays for teachers’ wages for instance, the building and maintenance of schools is a responsibility of the states.
In passing, the article fails to mention the ‘elephant’ in the room (pun intended): the BSP and its leader Mayawati. They are far more competitive in the rest of Uttar Pradesh, so quoting polls that have the BJP and SP/Congress in a dead heat is potentially misleading.
Besides, who trusts polls in the Trump era?