Mayawati

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"Mayavati" redirects here. For figure in Hindu mythology: daughter-in-law of Krishna, see Rati.
Mayawati Kumari
Member of Parliament
Mayawati.jpg
Mayawati in 2009
Chairperson of the Bahujan Samaj Party
Incumbent
Assumed office
1995
Preceded by Kanshi Ram
Member of the Rajya Sabha
Incumbent
Assumed office
March 2012
Constituency Uttar Pradesh
17th Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
In office
13 May 2007 – 7 March 2012
Preceded by Mulayam Singh Yadav
Succeeded by Akhilesh Yadav
In office
3 May 2002 – 29 August 2003
Preceded by President's rule
Succeeded by Mulayam Singh Yadav
In office
21 March 1997 – 21 September 1997
Preceded by President's rule
Succeeded by Kalyan Singh
In office
3 June 1995 – 18 October 1995
Preceded by Mulayam Singh Yadav
Succeeded by President's rule
Personal details
Born (1956-01-15) 15 January 1956 (age 58)
New Delhi
Political party Bahujan Samaj Party
Residence Lucknow
Alma mater
Occupation Politician

Mayawati (Hindi: मायावती, About this sound pronunciation ) (full name: Mayawati Kumari,[1] born 15 January 1956), is an Indian politician who served four terms as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) as head of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which focuses on a platform of social change to improve the welfare of the weakest strata of Indian society—the Bahujans or Dalits, Other Backward Classes, and religious minorities. 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.[2] In 1993 Mayawati formed a coalition with the Samajwadi Party and became the youngest Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at that time. She was the first female Dalit Chief Minister in India. In 1997 and in 2002 she was Chief Minister in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the second time for a full term.

Mayawati's tenure has attracted praise and controversy. Millions of Dalits 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 by acclamation to a seat in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament).

Early life[edit]

Mayawati was born on 15 January 1956 at Shrimati Sucheta Kriplani Hospital, New Delhi in a Dalit family. Her father, Prabhu Das, was a post office employee at Badalpur, Gautam Buddha Nagar.[3] The sons in the family were sent to private schools, while the daughters went to "low-performing government schools".[4]

Mayawati studied for her B.A. in 1975 at the Kalindi Women's College and obtained her LLB from the Campus Law Centre, part of the University of Delhi. She completed a B.Ed. from VMLG College, Ghaziabad, in 1976.[3] She was working as a teacher in Inderpuri JJ Colony, Delhi, and studying for the Indian Administrative Services exams, when Dalit 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."[4] In 1983 she acquired her LL.B from Delhi University. Impressed by her speaking skills and ideas, Kanshi Ram included her as a member of his team when he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984.[5] Mayawati was first elected to parliament in 1989.[6]

At Kanshi Ram's funeral ceremonies in 2006, Mayawati said they had both been following Buddhist traditions and customs. She has commented that she will 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.[7][8] When she was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, she publicly called Bhikkhus to prayer.[9]

Political career[edit]

Kanshi Ram founded the BSP in 1984. Influenced by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution of India, the party's primary focus is to improve the situation of Dalits and other disadvantaged groups through police reform, affirmative action on hiring of members of scheduled castes for government posts, and providing rural development programmes.[5] Reservation in India is a system whereby a percentage of government positions and seats at universities are reserved for persons of backward classes and scheduled castes and tribes. As part of her social reform plans, Mayawati advocates reservation for the poor as well as for the castes and tribes covered by the original reservation legislation.[10] In August 2012 a bill was cleared that starts the process of amending the constitution so that the reservation system can be expanded to promotions in state jobs.[11] Mayawati's career has been called a "miracle of democracy" by former Prime Minister of India P. V. Narasimha Rao.[2] Millions of Dalit supporters view her as an icon and refer to her as "Behen-ji" (sister).[12] Her public meetings have been attended by large audiences, who use slogans such as "Kanshi Ram ka mission Adhoora; karegi Behen Mayawati poora" (Kanshi Ram's unfulfilled mission will be completed by Mayawati) and "Behenji tum sangharsh karo; hum tumhare saath hain" (Sister, go ahead with your struggle; we are with you).[13]

In its first election campaign in 1984, BSP fielded Mayawati for the Lok Sabha (Lower House) seat of Kairana in the Muzaffarnagar district, for Bijnor in 1985, and for Haridwar in 1987. In 1989 she was elected as the representative for Bijnor, with 183,189 votes, winning by 8,879 votes.[14][15] Although BSP did not win control of the house, the electoral experience led to considerable activity for Mayawati over the next five years, as she worked with Mahsood Ahmed and other organisers. The party won three seats in the 1989 national election[16] and two seats 1991.[17]

Mayawati was first elected to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in 1994.[3] In 1995 she became, as head of her party, Chief Minister in a short-lived coalition government, the youngest Chief Minister in the history of the state up until that point, and the first female Dalit Chief Minister in India.[12][18] She won election to the Lok Sabha in two different constituencies in 1996 and chose to serve for Harora.[3] She became Chief Minister again for a short period in 1997 and then from 2002 to 2003 in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. In 2001 Ram named her as his successor to the party leadership.[6]

2007: BSP majority[edit]

Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and one of its poorest, is considered pivotal in the politics of India because of its large number of voters.[19][20] BSP won a majority in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, fielding candidates from a variety of castes and religions.[21] The campaign was accompanied by a colourful slogan: Haathi nahin, Ganesh hain, Brahma, Vishnu Mahesh Hain: "The elephant (the BSP logo) is really the Lord Ganesha, the trinity of gods rolled into one".[22] The new slogan invited everyone, including the higher castes, to "come ride the elephant", her party's election symbol.[12]

Mayawati was sworn in as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time on 13 May 2007. She announced an agenda that focused on providing social justice to the weaker sections of society and providing employment instead of distributing money to the unemployed. Her slogan was to make "Uttar Pradesh" ("Northern Province") into "Uttam Pradesh" ("Excellent Province").[23] Her government began a major crackdown on irregularities in the recruitment process of police officers recruited during the previous Mulayam Singh government. Over 18,000 policemen lost their jobs for irregularities in their hiring, and 25 Indian Police Service officers were suspended for their involvement in corruption while recruiting the constables.[24][25] Mayawati instituted reforms to introduce transparency into the recruiting process, including posting the results of selection exams online.[26]

The BSP won 20 seats in Lok Sabha from the state of Uttar Pradesh in the 2009 elections, obtaining the highest percentage (27.42%) of votes for any political party in the state. The party placed third in terms of national polling percentage (6.17%).[27] On 6 March 2012 the Bahujan Samaj Party lost its majority to the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati tendered her resignation to the governor of Uttar Pradesh the next day.[28] On 13 March 2012 she filed nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha, and she was declared elected unopposed on 22 March.[29][30]

On 15 November 2011, Mayawati's cabinet approved partitioning Uttar Pradesh into four different states for better administration and governance.[31]

Mayawati has seen through to completion several of her dream projects, including the Manvyar Shri Kanshi Ramji Green (Eco) Garden (inaugurated March 2011),[32] the Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden (inaugurated October 2011),[33] and the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Prateek Sthal (opened November 2012).[34]

Political and legal issues[edit]

Mayawati's political career has attracted praise and controversy.[35][36] She has been praised for her fundraising efforts on behalf of her party, and her birthdays were major media events as well as a symbol for her supporters. The increase in her personal wealth and that of her party[37][38][39] have been viewed by critics as signs of corruption.[12][40]

Taj corridor case[edit]

Main article: Taj corridor case

In 2002, the government of Uttar Pradesh began improvements of the infrastructure in the Taj Heritage Corridor, the important tourist area in Agra that includes the Taj Mahal. The project was soon riddled with problems, including funds being released for the project without the submission of the required detailed project reports to the environmental authorities.[41] Suspecting there were financial irregularities as well, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided twelve residences, including Mayawati's. It had filed a First Information Report against her and seven others two days earlier.[42] The raid uncovered evidence of assets disproportionate to her known income.[43][44]

In June 2007, Governor T. V. Rajeswar said that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute her. In his 23-page order, he said: "the fact that the Mission Management Board, consisting of officers of both the State and the Central Government, regularly met and discussed the project and the fact that even a sum of INR 17 crores was spent through the Central Government public sector undertaking, NPCC, all go to show that the serious offences with which Mayawati and the Minister were charged do not stand scrutiny."[45] Advocates unsuccessfully challenged the governor's decision in court. The Supreme Court rejected the plea of the CBI and refused to direct the governor to prosecute her. The Taj corridor case was effectively ended before going to trial.[46][47][48]

Birthdays[edit]

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 help in that quest.[35] Her birthdays have since become major media events at which she has appeared laden with diamonds.[12] 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[49] and in 2010 by the launch of programmes with a value of over INR 7,312 crore.[50]

Disproportionate assets case[edit]

Mayawati's assets run into millions of dollars, with several properties to her name.[12] In the 2007–08 assessment year, Mayawati paid an income tax of INR 26 crore, ranking among the top 20 taxpayers in the country. Earlier the CBI filed a case against her for owning assets disproportionate to her known sources of income. Mayawati described the CBI investigation against her as illegal.[51] Her party asserted that her income comes from gifts and small contributions made by party workers and supporters.[52][53]

On 3 August 2011 the Delhi High court dismissed the central government's appeal against Mayawati, stating that "she has fully discharged her obligations by disclosing the identities of all of her donors, the gifts had been donated by her supporters".[54] The central government decided not to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.[55] On 13 March 2012 Mayawati revealed assets worth INR 111.26 crore in an affidavit filed with her nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha.[29] The disproportionate assets case was finally quashed on 6 July 2012—nine years later—by a Supreme Court bench of Justice P Sathasivam and Dipak Misra; the court found that the case was unwarranted.[56] Based on an opinion received from the Directorate of Prosecution, the CBI decided not to file an appeal.[57] On 4 October 2012 a review petition was filed by Kamlesh Verma, contending that the case had been dismissed merely on technical grounds, and that the evidence had not been adequately reviewed.[58] On 8 August 2013 the Supreme Court declined a request to re-open the case.[59] After seeking legal advice, the CBI finally closed their file on 8 October 2013.[60]

Statues[edit]

In her tenures as a Chief Minister, Mayawati erected number of statues of Buddhist, Hindu, and Dalit icons like Gautam Buddha, Ravidas, Narayana Guru, Jyotirao Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, Periyar Ramasami, Ambedkar, BSP founder Kanshi Ram, and of herself.[61] She claims that the expenditure on statues and symbols of Dalit icons was required because the past governments did not show respect towards Dalit leaders, in whose memory nothing had ever been built.[62] She spent over INR 2,500 crore (about US$ 500 million) on projects in five parks and at memorials such as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal and Manyavar Kanshiram Smarak Sthal, built in the name of B.R. Ambedkar, Ramabai Ambedkar, and Kanshi Ram in Lucknow between 2007 and 2009.[63][64] The Comptroller and Auditor General of India reported that INR 15 crore (about US$ 3 million) was spent on memorials.[65] The Supreme Court of India admitted a Public Interest Litigation questioning this expenditure. In February 2010 Mayawati's government approved a plan for a special police force to protect the statues, as she feared that her political opponents might demolish them.[66] On 26 July 2012 the statue in Lucknow was damaged by members of an unknown group calling themselves "Uttar Pradesh Naunirman Sena".[67] The statue was re-installed overnight by the Samajwadi Party government.[68]

In October 2011 Mayawati inaugurated the Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden, built at a cost of INR 685 crore.[69] Since the memorial also features her own statues, Mayawati was accused by the Indian National Congress of wasting the taxpayers' money.[70] The BSP dismissed the allegations, stating that her statues were erected because Kanshi Ram's will requested that his statues should be constructed next to those of the current President of BSP. Mayawati accused the Congress of being "anti-Dalit".[70]

World Bank criticism[edit]

The World Bank loaned India funds for development, and Mayawati was to manage projects with this money in UP. The projects were preplanned and on schedule, but the Mayawati government made changes which put the projects behind schedule, including rapidly transferring high-caste managers in and out of rural posts.[71] The World Bank sent a letter of complaint on 1 August 2002 to India's central government stating, "We have now learnt that project managers have been replaced within three weeks of assuming office. The project coordinator of the Diversified Agriculture Support Project has been changed twice in quick succession and at the moment there is no project coordinator. In the forestry project, numerous changes have been made over the past six months ... Such developments do not augur well for these time-bound projects that require consistently good leadership."[72] Mayawati initially responded by saying the letter was a fake and later said there had been a misunderstanding. She then decreased the number of transfers, stopped creating new posts, and temporarily reduced the level of government spending on furniture and vehicles in response to the allegations. The World Bank continued to criticise the level of corruption even after these measures had been implemented.[71]

WikiLeaks allegations[edit]

Diplomatic cables published in 2011 through WikiLeaks detailing the opinions of American civil servants asserted that Mayawati ran all governmental decisions through her small group of advisors and that she employed food tasters for security.[73] The leaked messages also allege that she had sent a private jet to Mumbai to retrieve a pair of sandals.[74] Mayawati responded by saying the statements were baseless.[75]

Books on Mayawati[edit]

Studies have been done on Mayawati and books have been published, including her autobiographies. One of the first works was journalist Mohammad Jamil Akhter's book, Iron Lady Kumari Mayawati.[76] Her autobiographies are Mere Sangarshmai Jeevan Evam Bahujan Movement Ka Safarnama in three volumes in Hindi and A Travelogue of My Struggle-ridden Life and of Bahujan Samaj, in two volumes in English.[77] Behenji : A Political Biography of Mayawati is a biography by veteran journalist Ajoy Bose.[4]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
13 June 1995 – 18 October 1995
Succeeded by
President's rule
Preceded by
President's rule
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
21 March 1997 – 21 September 1997
Succeeded by
Kalyan Singh
Preceded by
President's rule
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
3 May 2002 – 29 August 2003
Succeeded by
Mulayam Singh Yadav
Preceded by
Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
13 May 2007 – 7 March 2012
Succeeded by
Akhilesh Yadav