Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. James Butterfield

Second Advisor

Dr. Sushi Datta-Sandhu

Third Advisor

Dr. Nancy Falk

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Elisabeth Jay Friedman


In April 1993, the Parliament of India passed the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, reforming the structure of local governments. The amendment mandated that the composition of local councils include at least one-third women. This study explores the effects of the 1993 Indian women's reservation bill in changing policies at the local government level in ways that address women's interests. Specifically, the research addresses the following questions: (1) Are women really participating in panchayati raj politics, or are they merely present? (2) Do quotas as institutional mechanisms make a difference in agenda setting and policy outcomes? Although it may be early to judge the effect of quotas on policy outcomes, the focus of the study is on agenda setting. I examine agendas before and after the introduction of quotas in order to measure their impact. Using a combination of qualitative methods that include non-participant I observations, interviews and analysis of records and proceedings, I examine women's participation at all three levels of the panchayati raj in the Sangli District,in Western Maharashtra. I argue that while quotas, as institutional mechanisms are a necessary step, women's participation, while successful in some cases, is hindered by the influence of other variables such as party politics, caste and lack of support from the family. Drawing on literature from institutional design and feminist theory, I posit that successful participation is a result of the balance between formal institutional design and its compatibility with informal institutions. I conclude that successful participation by women in panchayat politics is a result of a combination of various factors. Additionally, successful formal institutional design must consider the role of existing informal institutions. As such, reservations for women in India are an important first and necessary step, however, not a sufficient condition for women's "empowerment.".

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access