One of the benefits often claimed for 'moving' the state closer to people through the institutional reforms of democratic decentralisation is an improvement in the inclusion of politically marginalised groups. Decentralisation promises to deliver both the closer physical presence of centres of government and the formalisation of practices of representation at the grassroots. These changes in turn are expected to provide opportunities for historically marginalised groups to improve their associational capacities, and to gain recognition as rights-bearing citizens. This idea is examined through the experience of Kerala, which has one of the most thorough programmes of democratic decentralisation within India. Decentralisation has indeed provided new pathways to engage with local government. However, attempts to 'rescale' the state to the local level have also reshaped existing institutional channels for representation, political discourses, and everyday state practices, in ways which produce new microgeographies of exclusion. This paper highlights the importance of these everyday experiences of marginalisation for programmes of state reform. It argues that if they are ignored, decentralisation risks reproducing narrow forms of majoritarian localism, and its potential to contribute to building substantive democracy will be lost. © Pion and its Licensors.