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Kumari Mayawati, a prominent Indian politician, has left an indelible mark on the political landscape of Uttar Pradesh. Born on January 15, 1956, she is the national president of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), dedicated to advocating for social change among marginalised communities, including the Other Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and religious minorities. Mayawati’s journey from humble beginnings to four non-consecutive terms as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is often described as a “miracle of democracy.
” Notably, in 1995, she became India’s first female Scheduled Caste chief minister. Her tenure has garnered both praise and criticism, with millions of Dalits hailing her as an icon and affectionately referring to her as “Behen-ji” or “elder sister.” She is also recognized for her adept fundraising for the BSP, with her birthdays being celebrated by devoted supporters. However, her increasing personal wealth and that of her party have raised concerns about corruption. Mayawati’s legacy is a testament to the complex world of Indian politics, where progress and challenges often go hand in hand.
Mayawati Early Life and Education
Mayawati, born as Kumari Mayawati Das on January 15, 1956, in New Delhi, hails from a family of the Chamar caste. Her father, Prabhu Das, worked as a post office employee in Badalpur village, near Dadri, in Gautam Buddha Nagar. Notably, while the sons in her family received education in private schools, Mayawati and her sisters attended “low-performing government schools.”
Mayawati’s pursuit of education was marked by determination and hard work. She completed her B.A. degree in 1975 at Kalindi College, University of Delhi, and later earned her LL.B. from the prestigious Faculty of Law, Delhi University in 1983. Additionally, she obtained a B.Ed. degree from Meerut University’s VMLG College, Ghaziabad, in 1976. During this time, she was working as a teacher in Inderpuri JJ Colony, Delhi, while simultaneously preparing for the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examinations.
Her life took a significant turn in 1977 when the prominent politician Kanshi Ram, known for his advocacy for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes, visited her family home. Impressed by her potential, he made a bold prediction, telling 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.” True to his words, Kanshi Ram included Mayawati as a member of his team when he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984. Her journey in politics began, and in 1989, Mayawati was elected to Parliament, marking the beginning of her influential political career.
Mayawati’s life story is a testament to her unwavering commitment to education and her rise to prominence in Indian politics, particularly as a leader advocating for marginalised communities.
Mayawati and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
Kanshi Ram, a prominent figure influenced by B.R. Ambedkar founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984 with the goal of improving the conditions of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other marginalised groups in India. The party’s core agenda revolves around policy reforms, affirmative action in government employment for Scheduled Castes, and the implementation of rural development programs. One of the central pillars of their platform is the reservation system in India, which sets aside a certain percentage of government positions and university seats for individuals from backward classes, scheduled castes, and tribes.
Mayawati, a prominent leader in the BSP, has been a staunch advocate for expanding and enhancing reservation policies, including extending quotas to include more communities, such as religious minorities and economically disadvantaged upper castes. In 2012, a bill was passed to amend the constitution, paving the way for reservations in promotions within state jobs. Mayawati’s political journey has been celebrated as a “miracle of democracy,” and she has garnered immense support from millions of Dalit followers, often affectionately referred to as “Behen-ji” or sister.
Mayawati’s Political Career
Mayawati’s political career with the BSP began in 1984 when she was fielded for the Lok Sabha seat of Kairana, marking the party’s inaugural election campaign. Over the years, she contested in various constituencies, including Bijnor in 1985 and Haridwar in 1987. Her electoral journey led her to be elected as the representative for Bijnor in 1989, securing 183,189 votes and winning by 8,879 votes. Although the BSP did not gain control of the house, Mayawati’s active engagement in politics continued as she collaborated with prominent organisers like Mahsood Ahmed. The party managed to secure three seats in the 1989 national election and two seats in 1991.
In 1994, Mayawati was elected to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Uttar Pradesh (UP). A significant milestone came in 1995 when, as the head of the BSP, she became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. This achievement made her not only the youngest Chief Minister in the state’s history but also the first female Dalit Chief Minister in all of India. She later won elections to the Lok Sabha from two different constituencies in 1996 and chose to represent Harora.
Her tenure as Chief Minister continued briefly in 1997 and then from 2002 to 2003 in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. In 2001, Kanshi Ram named her as his successor to lead the BSP, solidifying her role as a prominent leader in Indian politics. Mayawati’s journey is a testament to her commitment to uplift marginalised communities and advocate for social justice in India.
Mayawati as a Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Mayawati, who served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, left an indelible mark on the state’s governance during her tenure. Known for her efficient administration and strong focus on maintaining law and order, she garnered praise even from opposition parties and rivals. Her commitment to upholding justice was evident when she ordered the arrest of her own party member, MP Umakant Yadav, in a land grabbing case in 2007. During a critical period in 2010, when the Ayodhya verdict was imminent, her government successfully ensured peace and order in the state.
Mayawati’s tenure saw a crackdown on high-profile criminals and mafia dons, and she advocated for stronger anti-rape laws. Under her leadership, Uttar Pradesh experienced fewer riots, lower incidence of rape, and reduced corruption, setting a notable benchmark. Notably, her term witnessed a lower number of crorepati (millionaire) legislators, and the state achieved a remarkable 17 percent GDP growth rate while experiencing a decline in crime. Mayawati’s legacy as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is marked by her dedication to good governance and law enforcement.
Mayawati Personal Life
Mayawati, the prominent Indian politician and leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), began her political journey under the guidance of Kanshi Ram, the party’s founder. Originally inclined towards pursuing a career in the civil service, Kanshi Ram persuaded her to enter the realm of politics. She chose to remain unmarried, a unique aspect of her life in the Indian political landscape. Mayawati is often referred to as the “Iron Lady” due to her unwavering commitment and resilience in the face of challenges.
Kanshi Ram lauded Mayawati for her fundraising efforts on behalf of the BSP during her 47th birthday celebrations. He envisioned the party’s ultimate goal as gaining power at the national level, and he acknowledged Mayawati’s contributions in this quest. Her birthdays have evolved into significant media events, where she often appears adorned with diamonds. Supporters celebrate her birthday as “Jan Kalyankari Diwas” (People’s Welfare Day). In 2009, this day witnessed the announcement of welfare schemes aimed at assisting the underprivileged in the state, and in 2010, social programs with a value exceeding ₹7,312 crore were launched.
Mayawati’s financial transparency is evident through her income tax payments. In the fiscal year 2007–08, she paid ₹26.26 crore (US$3.3 million) in income tax, ranking 20th on the Income Tax Department’s list of top 200 taxpayers, alongside renowned figures like Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar. Notably, she paid ₹15 crore (US$1.9 million) in advance tax from April to December 2007 and declared an additional ₹12.5 crore (US$1.6 million) from other sources, primarily labelled as “gifts” from party members.
Mayawati’s commitment to the Bahujan Samaj Party and her dedication to the principles of Buddhism are evident in her actions. At the party’s silver jubilee celebrations coinciding with Kanshi Ram’s birth anniversary in 2010, BSP workers garlanded Mayawati with currency notes. However, this event sparked controversy, with some alleging it was an act of corruption. Nevertheless, Mayawati and her supporters maintained that the currency garland was made from genuine donations from the party’s supporters. She and Kanshi Ram have both followed Buddhist traditions and customs, with Mayawati expressing her intention to formally convert to Buddhism when the political conditions enable her to become the Prime Minister of India, challenging gender discrimination norms by performing last rites typically done by male heirs. During her tenure as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, she publicly called Bhikkhus to prayer, underlining her commitment to her beliefs and values.
Mayawati, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has received several prestigious awards and recognitions throughout her career. In 2003, she was honored with the Paul Harris Fellow Award by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and Rotary International in recognition of her significant contributions to polio eradication. She was also presented with the Rajarshi Shahu Award by the Rajarshi Shahu Memorial Trust, highlighting her commitment to social and community initiatives.
Forbes acknowledged her influence and leadership by placing her 59th on their list of the 100 most powerful women in the world in 2008. Furthermore, Mayawati was featured in Newsweek’s list of top women achievers in 2007 and was even dubbed the “Barack Obama of India” in a Newsweek article from 2009, positioning her as a potential candidate for the role of Prime Minister. Time magazine also recognized her influence by including her in India’s 15 Most Influential list for 2007. These awards and accolades serve as a testament to Mayawati’s remarkable achievements and her substantial impact on Indian politics and society.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is Mayawati?
Mayawati, whose full name is Kumari Mayawati Das, is a prominent Indian politician known for her advocacy on behalf of marginalised communities, especially Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes. She is the national president of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and has served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
When and where was Mayawati born?
Mayawati was born on January 15, 1956, in New Delhi, India.
What is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)?
Kanshi Ram founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is a political party in India. It is dedicated to improving the social and economic conditions of marginalised communities, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes.
Has Mayawati held political office?
Mayawati has held various political offices, including serving as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and as a Member of Parliament. She became India's first female Scheduled Caste Chief Minister in 1995.
Why is Mayawati often called Behen-ji?
Mayawati is affectionately referred to as Behen-ji, which means elder sister in Hindi. This title is a sign of respect and endearment from her followers, particularly from the Dalit community.