No.54 Politics and Community Narratives of Participation in Local Governance of Rural India
Mudit Kumar Singh
Public engagement is vital to achieving good local governance. For the last three decades, donor agencies such as World Bank (WB) have emphasized community participation and local government. Thus, understanding the micro-level ethnic and political nuances of community participation in these local governing institutions is essential. India has the second-largest population in the world with a long history of local governance reforms, so it offers valuable insights into these connections. Using the data on local elections and the narratives gathered by face-to-face interviews and participant observation, the paper highlights that people are losing interest in local participation. Councils have many vacancies, and contesting elections for council members is declining. This will increasingly centralize decision-making at the local level years of decentralization reforms would be lost. The narratives from select villages suggest further decentralization of financial powers among the village council members is needed. Additional funding alone would not increase community participation in villages; a devolution of financial powers at the village committee level must accompany additional funding in order to make local governance more inclusive.