Tariq Thachil’s Elite Parties, Poor Voters: How Social Services Win Votes in India revolves around the empirical puzzle as to why poor people support political parties that do not promote their material interests. While this puzzle has received considerable attention in wealthy western democracies, it has been ignored in the non-western world. Thachil attempts to plug this gap, when he examines how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is identified with the more privileged sections of society has managed to attract the support of the least advantaged.
Previous scholarship on the rich-poor paradox points to three alternative strategies available to elite parties. These include, redistributive programmatic shifts, patron-age and ‘distracting’ appeals to a voter’s moral values or social identity (p.5). Thachil argues that these explanatory frameworks do not travel well outside the wealthy West. He instead proposes that private provisioning of local public goods by organizations linked to elite parties allows them to get close to the poor without hurting their core base.