Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Mayawati in 2012. Photo: Sipra Das/India Today Group/Getty Images

As India heads for national elections next spring, opposition parties hoping to topple powerful Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are wooing a controversial politician who has built immense power by representing the powerless.

Why it matters: Dalits, members of low castes in the Hindu system who have suffered discrimination and stigma for hundreds of years, are an increasingly coveted swing vote, in part because of rising tensions between them and ruling BJP-affiliated Hindu nationalists (whose conservative views explicitly stigmatize Dalits). Dalit herdsmen and leather traders have suffered numerous attacks by “cow vigilantes,” and earlier this year violent clashes erupted over the 200th anniversary of a colonial-era battle in which Dalits sided with the British against upper-caste Hindus.

  • While Modi’s pledge to expand economic prosperity won him as much as a quarter of the Dalit vote in 2014, that loyalty may now be in question.

Mayawati Das, known as Mayawati, is a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. She is also leader of the influential Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which represents the interests of Dalits, once known as “untouchables." Today, there are at least 200 million Dalits spread across the country, many of whom refer to Mayawati — who grew up in poverty and famously traveled by bicycle to visit poor voters in Uttar Pradesh — as behenji, or “honored sister.”

For her part, Mayawati is keen to stage a major political comeback.

  • In the 2014 general elections, the BSP won the third-highest vote tally but failed to secure a single seat in the lower house of the national legislature because it failed to come in first in any individual district.
  • Now, with an eye on 2019, the BSP is building local alliances in more than a dozen states, leaving open the question of whether Mayawati will yet partner with a national party.
  • A tie with the Congress Party — which suffered its worst ever defeat in 2014 — could pose a stiff challenge to Modi and even lead to a deadlocked outcome in which Mayawati has the role of kingmaker in choosing the next prime minister. 

Still, even if Mayawati does jump into the mix, the BJP is heading into 2019 in a commanding position.

  • A broadly popular Modi can now boast of governing the fastest growing major economy in the world.
  • What’s more, Mayawati herself is hardly uncontroversial. Despite her humble origins and strong advocacy for India’s poor, she has a personal taste for lavish living and megalomaniacal public works projects (including massive statues of herself) that have prompted accusations of corruption.

The bottom line: As the world’s largest democracy heads for elections next spring, the electoral loyalties of India’s most stigmatized groups could prove decisive. Keep an eye on Mayawati.

Sign up for Signal, a thrice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company, and follow @saosasha on Twitter.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
14 mins ago - Economy & Business

The places regulation does not reach

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Financial regulation is not exactly simple anywhere in the world. But one country stands out for the sheer amount of complexity and confusion in its regulatory regime — the U.S.

Why it matters: Important companies fall through the cracks, largely unregulated, while others contend with a vast array of regulatory bodies, none of which are remotely predictable.

Trump nominee Christopher Waller confirmed to Fed board

Christopher Waller at a Senate Banking hearing earlier this year. (Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The Senate voted 48-47 on Thursday to confirm Trump nominee Christopher Waller to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors — filling one of the two vacant slots on the influential economic body.

Why it matters: It's one of the last marks left on the Fed board by Trump, who has nominated five of its six members.

59 mins ago - Economy & Business

Boeing gets huge 737 Max order from Ryanair, boosting hope for quick rebound

Ryanair low cost airline Boeing 737-800 aircraft as seen over the runway. Photo by Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Dublin-based Ryanair said it would add 75 more planes to an existing order for Boeing's 737 Max airplanes, a giant vote of confidence as Boeing seeks to revive sales of its best-selling plane after a 20-month safety ban following two fatal crashes.

The big picture: Ryanair's big order, on the heels of breakthrough vaccine news, is also a promising sign that the devastated airline industry might recover from the global pandemic sooner than expected.