Noyonika Das is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. She holds a Master’s degree in Society and Culture and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Noyonika is also a PhD fellow at the Elections, Violence, Parties Project (EVaP). The EVaP project presents new theory and evidence on the nature, organization, and consequences of electoral violence. In the project, Noyonika is investigating why and how incumbents use violence to manipulate local elections. Her main research interests are the dynamics of political violence and its implications on subnational authoritarianism and democratic backsliding.
Noyonika’s doctoral dissertation develops a novel argument to explain why political parties engage in the violent subversion of local elections. The dissertation argues that local offices are important for consolidating partisan foundations and for establishing party dominance. In contexts where state-building is uneven and access to resources is scarce, local elections often witness fierce clashes between political groups who are vying for access to state power. A multi-method approach helps to unpack the spatial logic of election related violence and its implications for establishing partisan control at the local level. Using the Eastern Indian state of West Bengal as a primary empirical case, the thesis finds that the state incumbent party uses violence to consolidate and expand its electoral control. Violence is a joint collaboration between actors at different levels of governance; i.e., between the state incumbent party and local party workers or local elites. The dissertation outlines the logic of violence in local elections; this logic holds important insights on how violence can be used to undermine challenges to power from below, thereby further entrench the state incumbent. The findings have important implications for research on decentralization and subnational authoritarianism.
Noyonika will use the Sydney Bailey Fund to test the aggregate implications of violence in local elections. This analysis will involve collecting qualitative and quantitative data of the elections which followed the violent local election of 2018. Data on an additional election year will reveal the temporal implications of violence in local elections and whether coercive strategies of electoral control pay off in the long-run.