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Big Winner In Indian Elections Remains Best Kept Secret

By Thomas C. Mountain

24 November, 2004
Ambedkar Journal

Many months after the national elections in India, the biggest winner in the election remains a well kept secret. With the media trumpeting the election as a battle of the two supposed heavy weight parties culminating in an alleged knockout punch by the Congress Party of their rivals, the
Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP , one would never know that the party of India's bahujans or majority, indegenous peoples made the biggest gains.

A quick look at a break down of the gains made by the Dalit led party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) , whose leadership torch has been passed to India's Iron Lady, Dalit woman leader Mayawati, (as researched by Dr. Umakant of the India Institute of Dalit Studies, and published in the Dalit
International Newsletter, June 2004), shows just how fast the BSP is growing.

The BSP ran candidates for more seats in the Indian Lok Sabha, or Lower House of the Indian Parliament, than any other party, with 435 candidates out of a possible 543 seats. The two largest parties in India, the Congress Party and the BJP (the former ruling party) each were able to stand 417 and 364 candidates respectively, inspite of their massive lead in financial and human resources.

A very significant statistic is that the BSP sponsored 150 candidates in the 25-40 years of age group, more than any other party. The BSP stood 193 candidates in the 41-55 age group, 85 candidates in the 56-70 age group and just a handful, 7 candidates, in the 71 years old group. The BSP stood head and shoulders above the other parties in promoting the youth movement from amongst its ranks, a trend that bodes well for its future.

The BSP increased the percentage of the national vote total it recieved in 2004 to 5.35% from 4.17% in 1999, over 25%, continuing a trend by increasing its percentage of the popular vote by nearly 50% since the 1996 election.The BSP increased its representatives of seats on the Lok Sabha by 75% from the 1996 election, to 19 from 11

While only winning seats in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest and most influential state, the BSP did very well in other states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan, a major leap in expanding its influence and support outside of its traditional base in Uttar Pradesh. While contesting all 40 seats in Bihar, for the first time, though not winning any, the BSP still was able to pull almost a million votes.

Another very encouraging trend for the BSP is the broadening of its support base from its traditional Dalit constituency to large numbers of lower backward castes, lower caste/Dalit Muslims and other oppressed tribal and minority groups. The BSP tactic of running candidates from these other groups paid off. Of the 19 successful BSP candidates, 5 were Dalits, 5 were Yadavs (backward castes or Shudras), 4 were Muslims, 4 were other backward castes and one was even a Brahmin. The BSP also continued to expand its support amongst its core Dalit constituency, growing from 62% of the Dalit
vote in 1996 to 71% in 2004 in Uttar Pradesh. Nationally, the BSP took 30% of the Dalit vote, second only to the Congress Party which took 35%, with the Dalit vote for the BJP dropping dramatically to 23%.

The gains of the BSP were instrumental in the defeat of the ruling party, the BJP, and hurt the Congress Party in a significant way. With the Iron Lady, Mayawati, having shut down her attempts to work in coalition with the BJP, and targetting the Congress Party as the "other high caste party", the BSP has choosen to go it alone for the time being and made major gains despite lacking the money or patronage of the BSP or Congress. Having only been formed in 1986 and for the first time making a nation wide challenge to the traditional ruling elite, the BSP can only be encouraged by its successes. In time, if she survives the assassins bullet, Mayawati could one day be India's first Bahujan or Dalit Prime Minister.

India's Dalits say Caste means Varna, and in Sanskrit, the written language of Hinduism, Varna means Color. With Caste/Varna/Color dominating Indian society, Dalits have taken to describing Indian society as Indian Apartheid. To counter this, Dalits are getting organized and are starting to see the light at the end of the 3000 year old Apartheid in India tunnel. The only question to be answered is just how fast they can organize their people. Ignored? Yes. Slandered? With out a doubt. Defeated? Wishful thinking. The name of the BSP's Iron Lady,Mayawati, is quickly becoming part of the nightmares disturbing the sleep of India's caste infested rulers.

For more information on this article or India's Dalit movement contact the writer at;
tmountain@hawaii.rr.com

or send to;
Ambedkar Journal
c/o Thomas C. Mountain
47-431 Hui Nene St.
Kaneohe, Hawaii USA 96744


 

 

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