Political favoritism by powerful politicians: evidence from chief ministers in India

Umair Khalil, Mandar Oak, Sundar Ponnusamy

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2 Citations (Scopus)


We study whether in single-member-district legislative systems, powerful politicians engage in political favoritism towards their constituents. The focus is on the chief ministers of Indian state governments. Using night light intensity as a measure of economic activity, we find that a constituency represented by a sitting chief minister exhibits about 13 percentage increase in luminosity relative to all other constituencies. The effect comes predominantly from the cases where the chief minister's constituency lies outside their birth region. Neighboring constituencies, particularly those with strategic political value, also benefit from this windfall, suggesting the mechanism at play is likely to be political expediency rather than in-group favoritism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101949
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Economy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Distributive politics
  • Ethnic favoritism
  • Rent-seeking

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