This chapter investigates how the poor have been politically constituted and represented, and examines the evolution of ideas concerning urban poverty as a social problem and the poor as a social category. It aims to identify the underlying assumptions and ideas about poverty and the poor in the discourse and practice of public policy and dominant politics. The chapter explores the patterns of divergence and rather than suggesting their functional fit, in order to explain conflicting and contradictory political constructions of the poor and poverty. It describes the various concepts of the poor, poverty, poverty alleviation and provides an overview from the late-colonial period until the present, with special reference to the urban poor and poverty in the urban context, around which some of the most important and concerted controversies have revolved in India. The chapter shows how and why the poor have been so central to state formation and the evolution of politics in India’s post-colonial mass democracy.