Social Justice through Inclusion:
Consequences of Electoral Quotas in India 

Oxford University Press, 2017

Abstract

Across the world, governments design and implement policies with the explicit goal of promoting social justice. But can such institutions change entrenched social norms? And what effects should we expect from differently designed policies? This book is an empirically rich study of one of the most extensive electoral quota systems in the world: the reserved seats for the Scheduled Castes (SCs, the former “untouchables”) in India’s legislative assemblies. Combining evidence from extensive quantitative datasets, archival work, and in-depth interviews with politicians, civil servants, activists, and voters across India, the book explores the long-term effects of electoral quotas for the political elite and the general population. It shows that the quotas for SCs have played an important role in improving social justice for SCs in some ways, primarily by weakening the status hierarchy associated with the caste system. The extent and nature of the gains in social justice have not, however, been what all advocates of these quotas had expected or hoped for. This is a study of India, but the findings and discussions have broader implications. Policies such as quotas are usually supported with arguments about various assumed positive long-term consequences. The nuanced discussions in this book shed light on the trade-offs inherent in how these policies are designed, and lays the groundwork for a comparative research agenda on the politics of inclusion.