Mayawati Prabhu Das was born into a Hindu Dalit family to a post office employee in New Delhi. While her brothers were sent to private schools, she was sent to low grade government schools. But looks like she was meant to succeed. She got her B.A. from Kalindi College and obtained her LLB from Delhi University. She completed a B.Ed from VMLG College, Ghaziabad. Impressed by her speaking skills and ideas, Bahujan Samaj Party founder Kanshi Ram took her into the party.
She was the youngest CM elected in UP
Mayawati was 1st elected to Lok Sabha from Bijnor in 1989. She was elected to the upper house in 1994 but soon left to become the youngest and 1st Dalit woman CM of Uttar Pradesh in 1995. In 1996 she returned to the Lok Sabha this time as a member from Harora.
Her 2nd stint as UP CM in 1997 was also a short one. Her mentor Kanshi Ram named her as his successor in 2001. She was elected to the post of BSP party president and has held the post ever since. Her 3rd term as CM in coalition with the BJP lasted only for a year from 2002 to 2003. She was instrumental in making her party win 20 Lok Sabha seats from UP in the 2009 election. Mayawati served her 4th term from 2007 to 2012 when her party won an absolute majority.
An icon for many Dalits and oppressed class
Mayawati’s politics has always been centered around caste. She was famous for her successful implementation of “social engineering”, under which her party successively wooed the upper castes who were traditional BJP voters to vote for BSP. These combined with her traditional Dalit and backward caste voters propelled her to the CM’s seat. Mayawati remains to be a polarizing figure. She is an icon and a symbol of hope for many Dalits and people from oppressed classes who fondly call her “Behenji” or sister.
Strong leader and a tough taskmaster
She was responsible for the creation of many new districts like Ambedkar Nagar, Gautam Budh Nagar, Kaushambi, and Moradabad. She is also known to take tough decisions like suspending 127 officials in one go. Her tenure was marked by peace and maintenance of law and order, even during tense situations like Ayodhya verdict. There were fewer riots and many criminals were put behind bars during her tenure as CM. She was also responsible for the construction of the 6 lanes Yamuna Expressway connecting Delhi to Agra.It was during her tenure that the first F1 track was built in Greater Noida. Her rise has been called as a “miracle of democracy” by former PM Narasimha Rao.
Queen of Controversies
Mayawati is no stranger to controversy. Over her long political career, she has been involved in many controversies and allegations of financial misappropriations. She is a wealthy woman and was one of the highest payers of income tax. The wealth, she claims were ‘gifts’ from party workers. She came under the CBI radar when the improvements on the Taj Heritage corner had begun without proper submission of project reports to the environmental agencies and financial irregularities were found.
She also allegedly used charter flights to ferry her chappals when she was CM. During her tenure as CM, she built a number of parks across UP, parks that contained statues of her mentors like Dr. Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram, and some of her own statues.The crores of rupees spent on their construction are regarded as a monumental waste of taxpayer money and the statues were called a symbol of corruption. Citing a threat to her life, a lot of money was also spent on her security. After demonetization, hundreds of crores of rupees were deposited in an account of her party, but Mayawati alleged political vendetta.
Modi’s wave might replace Mayawati’s caste-based politics
Mayawati was worst affected by Modi’s and the BJP’s rise. Modi himself came from a poor background and thus was successively able to woo Dalits and poor people to vote for him. She didn’t win a single seat in the Lok Sabha election in 2014. In the recent UP election, her party could win only 19 out of 288 assembly seats. Also, Modi’s rise in 2014 marked a paradigm shift in Indian politics- development replaced caste.
In the 2017 monsoon session of Parliament, Mayawati resigned from the Rajya Sabha claiming that she wasn’t allowed to speak on atrocities against Dalits. Many regard her move to resign as a political gimmick or a last resort attempt at maintaining politically relevant.
Do you think Mayawati will be able to regain the fire she had in her earlier days?