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Untouchables sweep to power in India's most populous state

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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-11-07 11:48 AM
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Untouchables sweep to power in India's most populous state,,2077646,00.htm...


Randeep Ramesh in Mumbai
Friday May 11, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Supporters of the Bahujan Samaj party raise their hands to express support at an election rally in Allahabad, India. Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP


Mayawati, who uses only that single name, leads the Bahujan Samaj party, which looks set to sweep the polls in Uttar Pradesh, a northern Indian state of 170 million people and the country's most important bellwether of public opinion.

The result was a lesson for Rahul Gandhi - the son of Sonia Gandhi who runs the ruling Congress party - who spent a month criss-crossing Uttar Pradesh but in the end could only hold on to his 25 seats.

Uttar Pradesh is a chronically poor rural backwater that would be the world's sixth most populous state if it were a nation. Less than half its women can read or write their name, but it has also produced most of India's prime ministers.

Mayawati, a former Delhi school teacher, looks likely to be able to form a majority without the help of any other party in the state's 403-seat legislature. She has been chief minister of the state three times before, but each time for a short stint when her party was a junior partner in a coalition.


"Nobody expected this result and it is one of historic importance. In building a coalition between Brahmins and Dalits she will have to govern for both communities - a difference from the recent past when politicians promised to look after just their own caste," said Ramachandra Guha, the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy.

"She may be imperious and whimsical but she has demonstrated a shrewder political brain than her adversaries."

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