Feature

Untouchables transcend caste politics.

The week's news at a glance.

India

The Times of India

The Dalits have come into their own, said The Times of India. This lowest of castes, once known as untouchables, has risen to power in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. It’s the first time in more than 15 years that a single party has won an outright majority in the state. Led by Mayawati, a Dalit woman who goes by only one name, the Bahujan Samaj Party reached out beyond its traditional caste base. Mayawati realized that “electoral arithmetic was against the BSP if its support remained restricted to Dalits,” who make up just 21 percent of the Uttar Pradesh population. So she “wooed the Brahmins who, though at the other end of the caste spectrum, have been consistently marginalized” in state politics. The “clever inversion of caste logic” paid off. Mayawati’s party list included upper–caste Hindus, lower–caste Hindus, and a decent representation of Muslims—an “impressive diversity” of candidates that resonated with the state’s eclectic electorate. Such a politics of inclusion could easily attract voters in other states as well. “If Mayawati plays her cards right, the BSP’s elephant could become a familiar symbol across India.”

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