Just as the US has its issues with race, India has its with caste, and people here are already beginning to talk of a Dalit becoming prime minister as the equivalent of an African-American becoming president of the US. Such comparisons miss one significant difference: Barack Obama became the 44th president of the US not by playing his race card, but by presenting himself as a candidate acceptable to all.
That hasn’t happened so far in India, where leaders from a particular caste are more than happy to leverage this fact if it means an electoral victory. President-elect Obama’s campaign was inclusive. The election campaigns of most Indian leaders belonging to the so-called backward classes tend to be divisive. That’s no different from the politics of leaders from the mainstream parties, but that is a different issue altogether.
India calls itself the world’s biggest democracy, but to be considered a really great one it will have to elect leaders not for how they look and what caste they are from but for what they stand for. Remember, Obama didn’t win because he is a black man or a white man but because most Americans consider him to be the right man.