This article illustrates how the potential of recognition-based politics to achieve distributive justice is determined by political structures and the power relations that constitute them. In response to Nancy Fraser's framework of social justice, it shows that the meaningful coordination of identity-based claims with distributive justice is constrained — not only by the content of the claims themselves, but also because redistributive demands are subverted through competing pursuits for power and legitimacy between rival political factions. The article describes how the separate-state movement for Jharkhand in Eastern India was de-radicalized by three instruments, namely, the reservation system, cultural nationalism and state development discourse. This explains why distributive measures do not feature prominently in the Jharkhand state and why recognition politics has taken a disciplined form in the electoral mainstream while distributive politics continues to be pursued through violent and extra-parliamentary means.