Dalits may be at the bottom of the country’s socio-economic order, but when it comes to fielding educated candidates in parliamentary elections, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party scores over the others.
The BSP has fielded more graduates and post-graduates than any other national party. Also, the share of graduates among BSP candidates has risen sharply from 38 per cent in 2004 to 50 per cent in this election, according to an analysis of data available for the first four phases of polling.
According to data compiled by National Election Watch, a voluntary campaign, the BSP is slightly ahead of Congress in fielding more graduates and post-graduates in the 468 Lok Sabha seats that include Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand apart from seats covered in the first four phases. BSP has 264 graduates and post graduates in the fray, while Congress has 258.
However, the BSP lags in candidates with doctorate degrees. It has only eight, compared to 26 from Congress and 17 from BJP in the first four phases.
Experts said the numbers reflect a trend wherein the first generation beneficiaries of affirmative action are now seeking a bigger say in the country's affairs.
"The rich among upper castes are turning apolitical and dalits are now seeking electoral power," said Arun Kumar, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Mayawati was a teacher before she joined politics, and her party was built on financial and intellectual support of such Dalits who made it to government jobs and bureaucracy with the help of affirmative action.
In Uttar Pradesh, where BSP is in power, it outsmarts other parties when it comes to giving tickets to educated candidates. Similar trend is visible in Delhi but not in Rajasthan.