Uttar Pradesh: Dalit-based party loses 'untouchable' vote in state elections
by Nirmala Carvalho
For human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi, the defeat was expected. Socialist populist Samajwadi Party wins an absolute majority of seats. Rahul Gandhi's Congress party loses. Outgoing chief minister never fought to eliminate caste system.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Samajwadi Party (SP), a populist socialist party, won the elections in Uttar Pradesh, taking 224 seats out of 403. After four years in office, Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a Dalit-based party, lost power in India's most populous state (more than 200 million) winning only 79 seats. For Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the Varanasi-based People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), the defeat was expected because Mayawati moved away from her party's programme based on social justice. At the same time, Rahul Gandhi, son of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi, failed to win the state back for the Indian National Congress (INC), which it had lost in 2007. The Hindu ultranationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did even better than Congress, taking 47 seats against 37 for the INC. However, the BSP was the greatest loser.

"At the very beginning of her term as Chief Minister, Mayawati worked towards social engineering," refusing "progressive elements so necessary to eliminate the caste system." Instead, she "collaborated with some upper caste" elements, distancing herself "from the very people she was supposed to defend. She played the democratic game only for her own profit."

Other factors also contributed to her loss of Dalit support, such as the private use of public funds earmarked for the poor and the marginalised, widespread corruption and the sense of impunity enjoyed by her party.

"The lower castes are tired of this impunity," Raghuvanshi said. "Elections results in Uttar Pradesh show a new trend based on a neo-Dalit movement."

"Dalits are broken people, but they are not alone. There are three such groups: Dalits broken by the caste system, minorities (Christians and Muslims) broken by Hindu ultranationalists, and the poor and the unemployed, broken by neo-liberal economic policies."

"The neo-Dalit movement wants to end the culture of impunity based on violence, corruption and indifference towards the weakest."

"India's many problems are interconnected," the PVCHR director explained. "In order to understand and solve them, they must not be divided. What is needed is a comprehensive approach that takes into account economic, political and social factors."