Published by Y.P. Rajesh on Reuters India, Fri May 11, 2007
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Bahujan Samaj Party, the party championing the lowest castes, scored a surprise win in elections in Uttar Pradesh on Friday, while the country’s ruling and main opposition parties both lost ground.
The results were not expected to hurt Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s central coalition as the Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also fared poorly, disproving exit polls that had forecast an improved showing.
The victory of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which represents the country’s former “untouchables”, analysts said, could indicate that the state was moving away from divisive, caste-based politics and had voted for a new, broader coalition.
The BSP, headed by fiery teacher-turned-politician Mayawati, forged an unlikely alliance with the Brahmins, those on top of the Hindu caste hierarchy, touting it as a union of economically marginalised classes rather than a caste-based relationship.
“The people of Uttar Pradesh have risen above religion and caste divisions and have voted for us,” Mayawati told a news conference.
The strong show by the party was a vindication of its philosophy and was also a victory of the traditionally oppressed, she added.
“This is a vote in favour of good governance. She has broadbased her support base to head a national social coalition. This is the winning card,” said B.G. Verghese, a former editor and political analyst at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research.
Home to about 170 million people, Uttar Pradesh in the northern Hindi heartland is one of the most crowded regions on earth. It is roughly the size of the United Kingdom yet only five nations, including India itself, have a higher population. (full text).