Mayawati, fondly referred to as 'behenji' by her followers, is a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Beloved of the dalits, Mayawati has over the years created an irreplaceable place for herself in Indian politics.
She grew up in a Delhi slum and started her political career by cycling to dusty villages to meet constituents in Uttar Pradesh, a state she went on to govern for four terms as CM. The chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Mayawati draws support from the bottom rungs of the country's traditional caste system. Vowing to end caste discrimination and build a society based on equality and fairness, she is a champion for oppressed communities.
Mayawati entered politics with the help of socialist reformer Kanshi Ram in 1984. She won her first election in 1989 for the Lok Sabha seat of Kairana in the Muzaffarnagar district and there has been no looking back for her ever since. Mayawati was the first scheduled caste chief minister in India. In 2001, Ram named her his successor to the party leadership.
As the CM of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati gained a reputation for efficient governance and promoting law and order. She resigned as the leader of the BSP on 7 March 2012 after facing a defeat in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly elections. She was later elected a member of the Rajya Sabha, from which she resigned on July 20, 2017.
Amid rising sectarian tensions leading to stronger political unity among Dalits, a swing force that consists of about 16.6 per cent of the country's population, many parties are turning to Mayawati to forge an alliance ahead of the 2019 general elections. So, Mayawati will acquire importance in the upcoming elections owing to the BSP’s position as a third force, which may cut the votes of both the Congress and the BJP. Her party has forged a pre-poll alliance with arch-rival Samajwadi Party in an attempt to deal a severe blow to the Narendra Modi-led BJP government.