The Necessity of Engaging with Politics: Lessons from the Grass Roots in South India
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This article highlights the growing role, relevance and practice of politics in the everyday lives of poor people and grass roots NGOs, in relation to rural local government. It draws on experiences from a case study gram panchayat (lowest tier of local government) in the south Indian state of Karnataka. The analysis focuses on the period 1994–2006. The article describes how poor people who engage actively in different aspects of political participation are better able to influence the functioning of local government and the disbursal of material benefits from it. In doing so, it argues that this engagement is becoming more of a necessity for poor people. Even those who are reluctant find that political participation enables them to voice their demands and challenge dominant interests more advantageously.