Party of lower caste set to win India vote

May 11, 2007 at 12:13 PM
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LUCKNOW, India, May 11 (UPI) -- A party of India's lower caste members appeared headed for a key state election win in Uttar Pradesh, delivering a huge setback to the main Congress party.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), led by Mayawati, a fiery school teacher who goes by one name, was expected Friday to win a majority in the 403-seat assembly, ousting the current state ruling SP party led by Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mayawati, who had served as chief minister for short stints, is a Dalit, a group seen as belonging to the lower rung in the outlawed caste system.

Uttar Pradesh is India's largest state with a population of 170 million and the home of the powerful Nehru family which has led the Congress party, which currently governs India through a coalition. In the state election, Congress did not make much of an impact despite campaigning by Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is reportedly being groomed as India's next leader.

The Manchester Guardian said part of the reason for Mayawati's victory this time may be her decision two years ago to tone down attacks against upper caste Hindus, especially the highest caste Brahmins, and work with other social groups. In the current election, her party fielded 86 Brahmin candidates, the report said.

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