In 2007, Mayawati’s social engineering formula helped her party BSP win a majority in the Uttar Pradesh elections but she was not that lucky this time with its reworked version. Out of power for two consecutive terms and drawing a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BSP failed to strike a chord with the voters winning just 20 seats.
Mayawati gave tickets to 97 Muslim candidates and inducted tainted MLA from Purvanchal Mukhtar Ansari, his brothers Afzal Ansari and Sigbatullah Ansari, and son Abbas. But that could not revive the party’s fortunes.
From conjuring up the image of an upper caste basher to the most significant symbol of social change, 61-year-old Mayawati’s politics has come a long way in her career spanning over 30 years.
Thrice lucky to get the support of other parties to form a coalition government, Mayawati discovered her real potential in state politics when the BSP formed a majority government on its own in 2007, riding on the formula of social engineering.
The graduation of “Dalit ki beti” is well manifested in the iconic slogan of the party “tilak-taraju aur talwar, inko maro jutey chaar” eventually turning to “haathi nahi Ganesh hai, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hai”.
Her rise from humble beginnings aptly described as “miracle of democracy” by former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, attracted as much praise as controversy and gave her an iconic stature which her opponents can criticise but never ignore.
Popularly referred to as ‘Behenji’, Mayawati’s single- minded dedication to the ideals of B R Ambedkar and idea of social emancipation is said to have impressed Kanshi Ram who took her into his mentorship when he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1984 and she made her first entry in Parliament in 1989.
Anointed on December 15, 2001 by Kanshi Ram as his successor, Mayawati was elected national president of the BSP on September 18, 2003 and there has been no looking back since then.
Ever since her first brief tenure of four months in 1995 to her fourth term as chief minister which ended in 2012, she has earned the reputation of a firm and efficient administrator, especially on the law-and-order front.
She not only got her own legislators, accused in cases like land-grabbing, arrested and sent high-profile criminals and mafia dons behind bars but also ensured that peace and communal amity was maintained at the most crucial times like passage of the Ayodhya verdict in 2010.
The reputation of a no-nonsense leader which later went on to become her USP came her way through massive transfers and suspensions of senior IAS, IPS and other officials and also established her solid hold among the state’s babus.
She is also accused of following an autocratic lifestyle in the party as well as in the government in which both leaders and officials have to walk barefoot and she is considered as the last word.
Her move of installing her own statues alongside Kanshi Ram is some of the memorials and describing herself as the “saviour of the underprivileged” also indicate her desire for reverence, her critics say.
Among Mayawati’s major contributions are manifested in 165-km six-lane Yamuna Expressway connecting Delhi to Agra through Noida–Greater Noida Expressway, the First F1 Indian Grand Prix, an international event at Buddh International Circuit, memorials and parks dedicated to icons of Bahujan Samaj which have also changed the skyline of the state capital Lucknow.
But she also has the distinction of attracting severe criticism from all sections with one controversy after the other shadowing her achievements.
One such major controversy erupted when BSP workers garlanded her with currency notes on the occasion of the party’s silver jubilee coinciding with Kanshi Ram’s birth anniversary on March 15, 2010, her ostentatious birthday celebrations and fund raising campaigns by her partymen.
It also led to the murder of an engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta, in Auraiya in December 2008 allegedly at the hands of her legislator Shekhar Tiwari.
Besides the Taj Corridor scam which rocked her government, the bloody blot of the multi-million NRHM scam during her last tenure has remained with CMOs’ murder including the suicide of a deputy CMO in jail.
The controversies, however, dogged her even when she was voted out of power with the latest one being deposit of Rs 105 crore in her party’s bank account after demonetisation giving fodder to her opponents especially in these elections.
On the personal front too, she has been harried by disproportionate assets case.
According to reports, Mayawati’s assets run into millions of rupees with several properties to her name. In 2007–08 assessment year, paid an income tax of Rs 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.
Her party asserted that her income comes from gifts and small contributions made by party workers and supporters.
A votary of smaller states, Mayawati wrote letters to the prime minister after coming to power in 2007 regarding partitioning of Uttar Pradesh into four different states and on November 15, 2011, her cabinet approved division into four different states (Pashchim Pradesh, Awadh Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Purvanchal) for better administration and governance.