THE BAHUJAN SAMAJ PARTY'S (BSP) triumph in the 2007 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh was not simply electoral, it also heralded a new era in Indian politics in which, for the first time, a state with an aggressively feudal society rooted in upper-caste hegemony voted a Dalit—a Dalit woman, to top it all—to the chief minister’s chair with an outright majority. The victory brought to fruition the strategy of the late BSP founder, Kanshi Ram: that Dalits should first capture power from the upper castes and later use the government to penetrate deeper and wider to create an inclusive social, political and economic development structure.
Mayawati became the chief minister having reinvented the party, shifting it from its Dalit-oriented politics to a broader dispensation by allocating a good share of party tickets to Brahmins for the elections and to plum political and governmental posts. Her ministry had eight Dalits, and four Brahmins and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) each, besides a Muslim, a Bhumihar and a Bania.
This rainbow coalition of castes injected a sense of empowerment into the Brahmins, who had been left with few options, with the Congress continuing to lose its base and power over the previous two decades, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) disintegrating and the Samajwadi Party espousing, largely, the cause of the OBCs and Muslims, who were also divided. Collectively, all this made enviable political space for Mayawati.
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