Political reservation for disadvantaged groups is believed to be a way of improving targeting of publicly provided goods to those groups. This paper examines the impact of political reservations for women and scheduled castes and tribe (SC/ST) candidates in local governments in West Bengal, India between 1998-2004 on targeting to landless, low caste and female-headed households. It differs from existing literature by differences in geographic coverage, time span, and use of self-reported household benefits across a broad range of programs. Reservation of chief executive (pradhan) positions in local government for women was associated with a significant worsening of within-village targeting to SC/ST households, and no improvement on any other dimension of targeting. Reservation of pradhan posts for SC/ST members was associated with a significant increase in benefits received by the village as a whole, improvement in intra-village targeting to female-headed households, and to the group (SC or ST) of the pradhan. The effects of women's reservations are not consistent with simple citizen-candidate or elite capture models of electoral politics. They are consistent with a more complex hypothesis of capture-cum-clientelism which is weakened by election of politically inexperienced women to reserved pradhan posts.
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