Google staged four discussions expounding on the finer points of its "Glass" wearable computer during this week's developer conference. Missing from the agenda, however, was a session on etiquette when using the recording-capable gadget, which some attendees faithfully wore everywhere - including to the crowded bathrooms. Full Article
"Dalit Queen" weaves magic on campaign trail
VARANASI, India |
VARANASI, India (Reuters) - As the helicopter swooped down a cloudless sky, a tide of "untouchables" surged forward for a glimpse of their new champion -- a stout 53-year-old woman billed as India's potential prime minister.
The woman smiled and offered a windshield-wiper wave, sending the crowd into raptures. They sang songs in her praise and raised their hands in the air, as if in deference to a goddess who has descended from the sky.
This is Mayawati, a daughter of "Dalits" or people formerly known as "untouchables", whose inventive caste-based politics in this general election is the hope of change for millions born into the poverty and wretchedness of the lowest rungs of the Hindu social hierarchy.
"No one feels for you the way our party does," Mayawati told a weekend rally in this northern holy town of Hindu gurus.
Hop scotching India by helicopter ahead of a staggered general election beginning Thursday, Mayawati is seeking to replicate across the country her stunning landslide victory in local polls in Uttar Pradesh in 2007.
A key swing state, Uttar Pradesh is the single largest source of seats in parliament and Mayawati is positioning herself as a vital ally to whichever party may need her to govern. She could even bargain to be India's first Dalit prime minister.
"Mayawati should be doubling her seats this time in the state which will allow her to leverage better as a coalition leader," political commentator Anil Verma said. Her party won 19 parliamentary seats from Uttar Pradesh in 2004.
Analysts say such a government was unlikely to be stable or be able to bridge a yawning fiscal deficit and push financial reforms, including slashing subsidies and privatisation.
Critics say Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are siphoning off state funds to pay for her personal whims, from expensive houses, jewellery to bronze statues of herself.
At the rally in Varanasi in support of her candidate -- a Muslim now in jail on murder charges -- her stage was cooled by four air-conditioners. Her supporters braved a baking sky.
One of nine children, Mayawati managed to study law and become a teacher through a government quota scheme for Dalits before being mentored by the BSP's founder.
Since her election win in 2007, she has inaugurated one of India's biggest highway projects, spent millions on parks and statues, and wielded what critics say is an authoritarian stick.
She has already faced probes over her personal wealth.
But Mayawati, affectionately called "Behenji", or respected sister, is an icon for most of India's 170 million lower-caste people she is trying to mobilise.
Yet Dalits alone are not enough to win Mayawati power.
Mayawati won the state election with an unlikely alliance of Dalits and the priestly Brahmins, the cream of the caste system. She is now trying to replicate that alliance in other states.
But corruption is the most serious criticism of Mayawati and her two years in power have spawned disillusionment among a section of the youth complaining of no jobs or opportunities.
The national parties -- the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party -- have little presence in the state. Many Dalits think Mayawati is simply unstoppable now.
"There is little to come in the way of Behenji," said Mangat Ram, a Dalit farm hand.
For an interactive graphic on the Indian elections, click on: here
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this