Modi’s Rivals Amplify Caste Divide in Bid to Win India Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Maya Gangle is sprinkling fertilizer in a small field that will soon be sown with lentils. Wearing a blue and mustard sari and gloves to protect her from the chemicals, Gangle’s life has been difficult: Widowed young, the 50-year-old has raised three daughters alone and is working hard to arrange a marriage for her youngest.

In previous elections, Gangle voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist party, persuaded by their promise of a better life. But despite Modi’s commitment to Hindu unity, she lives with a constant reminder of her place in society. As one of the country’s “scheduled castes,” she’s been barred from the village temple because she’s considered “impure.”

She says she wants change, and that means voting for the biggest opposition party, the Indian National Congress, in the current state elections. Results will be announced Sunday. “This time, it just cannot happen – that we vote for the BJP. We will vote only for Congress,” said Gangle. Her cousin, working alongside her, nodded in agreement.