Dynastic Politics in Punjab: Facts, Myths, and their ImplicationsPublished -
A fundamental paradox of Punjab’s politics is the coexistence of competitive electoral contests with a deeply held belief among the electorate that the political system is extremely uncompetitive. The highly competitive nature of Punjab’s elections can be seen from the fact that a 5 percentage-point swing against incumbent parties in the coming election, all else equal, can topple as many as 30% of the national assembly seats in the province. A resolution of this paradox is provided by the claim that the political class in Punjab is heavily dominated by dynasties, held together by ties of blood and marriage that impede the participation of non-dynastic aspirants to public office. Proponents of this view argue that, while Punjab’s politics appear competitive as members of dynastic factions aggressively compete against each other using different party platforms, they are simultaneously uncompetitive because the dynasties, and the pursuit of their interests, trump other concerns in political party, public policy and development-related matters.
To what extent does the evidence support this view? This Working Paper addresss this and other questions related to dynastic politics in Punjab, using a unique and original database of familial linkages among the top three contestants in national and provincial assembly races in all elections between 1970 and 2008.