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  • Over the last couple of years, India's most underprivileged citizens have taken to the streets in thousands to protest violence, government policies, and to demand more rights.

  • And hundreds of millions of people from the nation's lowest caste will be a force to be reckoned with when they head to the polls to vote in the national elections due by May.

  • This is your Bloomberg QuickTake on Lower Caste Political Power.

  • Hindus, which make up 80 percent of modern India, were traditionally split into four hierarchical groups.

  • The lowest of all, Dalits, now form a quarter of the population, - about 16 percent of all voters.

  • On the ground there is a lot of discomfort, especially amongst the Dalits.

  • There is discontent among minorities, and even as far as the Hindu's majority is concerned... the upper caste, or urban people.

  • One hopeful to replace Narendra Modi as prime minister is is Mayawati -- a former Delhi slum native who has been elected chief minister of India's most-populous state of Uttar Pradesh four times.

  • Her party, Bahujan Samaj, vows to end caste discrimination and build a society based on equality and fairness.

  • She has followers across states in India and even of she wins, say one or two seats in every state, she can be the kingmaker, at worst.

  • At best, she could stand a good chance of being the consensus candidate for the other side.

  • Laws against caste discrimination were adopted seven decades ago.

  • And with some exceptions, caste remains a major factor in determining how people earn a living and whom they marry, especially in the small towns and villages where around 70% of Indians live.

  • So far, Modi has been a very interesting government, simply because this is the first time in three decades that we'd had a leader come with this kind of majority.

  • Modi rode a wave of dissatisfaction and emphasized his own modest background to take power in 2014.

  • But his BJP party has developed a potentially problematic reputation as far as Dalit voters are concerned.

  • Narendra Modi's party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has traditionally (and) always been seen as the base of what we called upper-caste people.

  • So basically, (they are) the more privileged, the more land'owning, and of course, business-owning class.

  • Despite living in a stratified society where circumstances of birth define a large part of what the future will hold, voters in the world's largest democracy will soon be hitting the polls as equals.

  • Each political party will tailor its message with that in mind.

Over the last couple of years, India's most underprivileged citizens have taken to the streets in thousands to protest violence, government policies, and to demand more rights.

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Why India’s Lower Castes Hold So Much Political Power

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    April Lu posted on 2019/03/12
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