Development and Urbanization
Inclusiveness and sustainability are key goals driving the urban sustainable development agenda, but how can policymakers be held accountable to these goals? At the level of a city, programmes are formulated and implemented by a variety of elected and appointed state and local officials. When pushing for their social and economic rights to the city and its resources, marginalized urban citizens thus need to engage with a complex government institution through electoral and non-electoral processes. Understanding the opportunities and constraints shaping their participation in these processes then becomes important for ensuring that urban development is inclusive in practice. Studies of the urban poor and of slum communities often focus on their social mobilisation and claim-making. This paper focuses instead on how urban poor slum dwellers use electoral strategies as a way of pushing their demands. Using the case of political mobilisation by slum dwellers around a land and housing policy in the city of Bhubaneswar (Orissa, India), this paper examines the different ways in which slum dwellers coordinate their vote around such demands, negotiate informal clientelist quid pro quo transactions with politicians or transparent, law-bound provision of land, and present their demands as citizenship rights versus clientelist bargains particularly during the lead up to elections. In doing this, the paper explicitly ties electoral politics to a core urban policy issue – land security and housing for the poor – and tries to explain how processes of local democracy can be important to understand for creating inclusive cities.