Despite a large comparative literature on party machines in distributive politics, scholars have yet to systematically examine how party leaders select local brokers to staff their party organizations. We provide a theoretical framework for studying these selection decisions. We argue that patrons must balance two key concerns: a broker’s efficacy among clients and their loyalty to party and patron. We test the relative importance of these concerns through a conjoint experiment conducted with 343 local political patrons across two Indian cities. Briefly, we find patrons strongly prefer loyal brokers, and not simply brokers who are popular with clients. We suggest this preference reflects the high threat of broker exit under conditions of inter-party competition and intra-party factionalism. Further, we find that patrons value a broker’s everyday problem-solving efficacy more highly than their election-time mobilizing efficacy. We supplement this analysis with data from a survey of 629 slum leaders, which reveals why brokers demand formal positions within parties, and provides novel evidence of their career trajectories within party organizations.
Discussant: Gonzalo Contreras Aguirre (Oxford)