Mayawati (born 15 January 1956) is an Indian politician. She has served four separate terms as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. She is the national president of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which focuses on a platform of social change for Bahujans, more commonly known as Other Backward CastesScheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as well as converted minorities from these castes. She was chief minister briefly in 1995 and again in 1997, then from 2002 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2012.

Mayawati’s rise from humble beginnings has been called a “miracle of democracy” by P. V. Narasimha Rao, former prime minister of India. In 1993 Kanshi Ram formed a coalition with the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1995. She was the first female Scheduled Caste chief minister in India. In 1997 and in 2002 she was chief minister with outside support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the second time only for a year up to 26 August 2003 due to BJP withdrawing support.

Mayawati’s tenure has attracted praise and criticism. A majority of Dalits across India view her as an icon, and refer to her as Behen-ji (sister). She has been praised for her fundraising efforts on behalf of her party and her birthdays have been widely celebrated by her supporters. The rise in her personal wealth and that of her party have been criticised as indicative of corruption.

After losing the 2012 legislative assembly elections to the rival Samajwadi Party, she resigned from her post as party leader on 7 March 2012. Later that month, she was elected to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian parliament.


Early life and education

Mayawati was born on 15 January 1956 at Shrimati Sucheta Kriplani HospitalNew Delhi into a Dalit family of Chamar caste. Her father, Prabhu Das, was a post office employee at Badalpur, Gautam Buddha Nagar. The sons in the family were sent to private schools, while the daughters went to “low-performing government schools”.

Mayawati studied for her B.A. in 1975 at the Kalindi CollegeUniversity of Delhi and later obtained her LLB from University of Delhi. She completed a B.Ed. from Meerut University‘s VMLG College, Ghaziabad, in 1976. She was working as a teacher in Inderpuri JJ Colony, Delhi, and studying for the Indian Administrative Services exams, when Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other backward castes politician Kanshi Ram visited her family home in 1977. According to biographer Ajoy Bose, Ram told her: “I can make you such a big leader one day that not one but a whole row of IAS officers will line up for your orders.” In 1983, Mayawati was awarded her LL.B from University of Delhi. Kanshi Ram included her as a member of his team when he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984. Mayawati was first elected to Parliament in 1989.


BSP presidentship

On 15 December 2001, in an address during a rally in Lucknow, Kanshi Ram named Mayawati as his successor. She was elected national president of the BSP for her first term on 18 September 2003. She was elected unopposed for a second consecutive term on 27 August 2006, for a third term on 30 August 2014 and for fourth term on 28 August 2019.

Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh

As the Chief Minister, Mayawati gained a reputation for efficient governance and promoting law and order, winning praise even from opposition parties and other rivals. In 2007, MLA Umakant Yadav of her own political party accused in a land grabbing case, was arrested near her dwelling on her orders. During September–October 2010, at the time of the Ayodhya verdict, her government maintained law and order and the state remained peaceful. Several high-profile criminals and mafia dons were jailed during her terms in office She called for strong anti-rape laws. Fewer riots, lowest rapes, and least corruption occurred during her tenure as compared to previous or successive governments. In the 2007-2012 assembly, only 124 MLAs were crorepatis as compared to 271 crorepatis in successive assembly elected in 2012. Uttar Pradesh achieved higher GDP growth rate at 17 per cent and lesser crimes under Mayawati regime as compared to previous and successive governments.


Personal life and public image

Mayawati started her political career after Kanshi Ram, the founder of Bahujan Samaj Party, persuaded her to join the civil service and politics. Mayawati chose to remain unmarried. She is also known as the Iron Lady Mayawati.

Kanshi Ram praised Mayawati at her 47th birthday celebrations for her fundraising activities on behalf of the party. He stated that the party’s eventual goal is to gain power at the national level, and that Mayawati’s efforts had helped in that quest. Her birthdays have since become major media events at which she has appeared laden with diamonds. Her supporters have declared her birthday as Jan Kalyankari Diwas (People’s Welfare Day). In 2009, the day was marked by the announcement of welfare schemes targeted towards poor and downtrodden people of the state and, in 2010, by the launch of social programmes with a value of over ₹ 7,312 crore.

In 2007–08, Mayawati paid ₹26.26 crore (US$3.7 million) as income tax. She was at number 20 in the I-T department’s compilation of the top 200 taxpayers’ list with names like Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar. Mayawati paid ₹15 crore (US$2.1 million) in advance tax in April–December 2007. She paid ₹12.5 crore (US$1.8 million) on other incomes, most of which was declared by her as “gifts” by party members.

When BSP workers garlanded Mayawati with currency notes on the occasion of the party’s silver jubilee celebrations coinciding with BSP founder Kanshi Ram’s birth anniversary on 15 March 2010, Indian news channels and newspapers purported to expose the event as a ‘scandal’ on the presumption that the Chief Minister had publicly committed an act of corruption that was being flaunted openly and declaring that the garland of currency notes was made from money through corrupt means and not from donations of Bahujan Samaj Party supporters as Mayawati, her Ministers and supporters claimed. At Kanshi Ram’s funeral ceremonies in 2006, Mayawati stated that both Kanshi Ram and herself had been, and she would continue to be, observant of Buddhist traditions and customs. She has stated her intention to formally convert to Buddhism when the political conditions enable her to become Prime Minister of India. Her act of performing the last rites (traditionally done by a male heir) was an expression of their views against gender discrimination. When she was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, she publicly called Bhikkhus to prayer.


Awards and recognition

In 2003, Mayawati as the Chief Minister, was awarded with Paul Harris Fellow Award by UNICEFWorld Health Organization and Rotary International, for her initiative in Polio eradication. Mayawati was also honoured with Rajarshi Shahu Award by Rajarshi Shahu Memorial Trust. In 2008, Forbes added Mayawati in the 59th place on its list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. She appeared in Newsweek‘s top woman achievers list in 2007. In 2009 a Newsweek article described her as the Barack Obama of India, and a potential candidate for Prime MinisterTime magazine included Mayawati in India’s 15 Most Influential list for 2007.