Elite Parties, Poor Voters: How Social Services Win Votes in India

(Cambridge University Press, Studies in Comparative Politics Series, 2014).


Why do poor people often vote against their material interests? This puzzle has been famously studied within wealthy Western democracies, yet the fact that the poor voter paradox also routinely manifests within poor countries has remained unexplored. This book studies how this paradox emerged in India, the world’s largest democracy. Tariq Thachil shows how arguments from studies of wealthy democracies (such as moral values voting) and the global south (such as patronage or ethnic appeals) cannot explain why poor voters in poor countries support parties that represent elite policy interests. He instead draws on extensive survey data and fieldwork to document a novel strategy through which elite parties can recruit the poor, while retaining the rich. He shows how these parties can win over disadvantaged voters by privately providing them with basic social services via grassroots affiliates. Such outsourcing permits the party itself to continue to represent the policy interests of its privileged base.

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Tariq Thachil’s brilliant book, Elite Parties, Poor Voters: How Social Services Win Votes in India, represents the best of contemporary political science. Thachil begins with a profound and timely puzzle…In a deft display of multi-method research, he combines findings from archival research and interviews with analysis of national and local voter surveys to demonstrate convincingly that his argument explains the success of the BJP with poor voters. Thachil’s book is destined to have an enduring impact on the field.
— Gregory Luebbert Award ~ best book in comparative politics.
Thachil’s book is a fascinating exploration of why poor voters support the elite Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Thachil’s findings make major theoretical and empirical contributions to the literatures on parties, comparative politics, elections, and India.
— Leon Epstein Award ~ best book on political parties and political organizations


  • 2015 APSA Luebbert Prize for best book in comparative politics. 
  • 2015 Gaddis Smith Prize for best first book on an international subject by a Yale Faculty Member
  • 2015 APSA Epstein Prize for best book on political parties. 
  •  2010 APSA Almond for best dissertation in comparative politics.
  • 2010 Sardar Patel Prize for best dissertation on modern India in the fine arts, humanities, or social sciences.
  • 2010 Esman Prize for best dissertation in Government, Cornell University. 


Perspectives on Politics (Ashutosh Varshney)

Journal of Asian Studies (Christophe Jaffrelot)

Journal of Politics (Adam Ziegfeld)

Critical Asian Studies (Leela Fernandes)

Pacific Affairs (Rob Jenkins)

Studies in Indian Politics (Vibha Attri)

Foreign Affairs