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Accepted Paper:

The Administrative Burden of Political Inclusion: How Police Agencies Implement Elections in India  
Akshay Mangla (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

How do states secure democratic legitimacy in hierarchical settings? Based on fieldwork in India, I find that public scrutiny and agency norms lead frontline police officers to promote inclusion during elections. E.g. female officers are deployed to voting booths to encourage women’s participation.

Paper long abstract:

Scholars of development maintain that free and fair elections are integral to good governance. However, in hierarchical settings with low state capacity, electoral interference can undermine legitimacy of the state. How does the state establish legitimacy under such conditions? Based on a case study in India, this paper finds that police agencies bear the administrative burden of instituting free and fair elections. Notwithstanding severe resource constraints and political interference, police officers are subject to public scrutiny from state and civil society agencies to uphold impartiality. Officer commitment is sustained by organizational norms upholding “law and order" duty. The findings draw on qualitative fieldwork—participant observation with police agencies during elections, interviews with officers, election observers and other state officials—in Madhya Pradesh, one of India’s poorest states, along with administrative data and internal documents from the Election Commission. During state assembly elections, police agencies are under the scrutiny of civilian agencies and the media and undergo planned organizational upheavals, including the mass transfer of officers. Visible efforts are undertaken to demonstrate impartiality and inclusion, such as women’s participation through the creation of women-only voting booths and deployment of female officers. Police initiatives during elections contrast sharply with how law enforcement normally handle complaints from women and other marginalized social groups. The paper theorizes that police administration of elections promotes state legitimacy while reproducing institutional weaknesses in everyday law enforcement.

Panel P18c
Governance at the margins: Understanding public authority in FCVAS III
  Session 1 Thursday 1 July, 2021, -