Mayawati: A fall from grace

With her party members leaving her just before the election, Mayawati might be facing the biggest challenge of her three- decade long political career. 

What’s next for Mayawati? PTI

Once projected as the juggernaut who would stop the Modi wave in Uttar Pradesh now seems to be floundering. Her party’s legislature group members leave her just before the  upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. The Bahujan Samajwadi party(BSP) chief and four- time UP Chief Minister, Mayawati might be facing the biggest challenge of her three- decade long political career. 

This time around there is no major alliance and she is going to put to test her caste-formula to win the elections. Moreover, she will also be facing a challenge from the younger and newer Dalit leaders and formations.  In terms of election manifesto, the BSP has announced that the party will not release any this year.

Senior leaders like Ram Achal Rajbhar and Lalji Verma have joined the Samajwadi Party (SP) along with a dozen of BSP legislators, and many have switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party went from winning 206 seats in a house of 403 in the 2007 assembly polls to 19 seats in the 2017 assembly elections in the state. 

WATCH : Beyond Mayawati, at stake with BSP show in 2022 UP polls is the idea of ‘mainstream’ Dalit party. The Print

Born as Mayawati Prabhudas to a Dalit family in Delhi and studied to become a teacher, she took to politics under the mentorship of Dalit leader Kanshi Ram.

Kanshi Ram and Mayawati. AFP.

She faced repeated electoral failures before she tasted success in Mayawati losing three elections. First, the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha seat in 1984. Then in 1985 she lost from Bijnor, followed by her third loss in 1987 from Haridwar. However in 1989 she contested for the Bijnor Lok Sabha seat and won with the party’s vote share climbing up to 9 per cent. 

In 1993, the BSP allied with the SP to win the UP assembly polls with Mulayam Singh Yadav as the Chief Minister. In 1995, she announced that she was withdrawing from the SP alliance, SP workers attacked her and her party members in a government guest house, which eventually lead to Mulayam Singh being sacked and Mayawati becoming India’s first Dalit CM at age of 39. 

Mayawati as CM – A Report Card

The following 5 years turned out to be very important for the BSP and a turning point for Mayawati. The state over the years showed improvement on the law and order front, and the state saw a rise in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). She is credited with developing the Ganga and the Yamuna expressways, plus the Noida Metro. 

But this governance was eclipsed by her extravagant and unnecessary spending of public money to build monuments, parks and buildings. In Lucknow she spent crores to make statues of herself and many Dalit leaders, not ignoring the rows of huge elephant statues. These spendings and her assets shooting from one crore rupees in 2003 to 50 crore rupees in 2007 attracted a CBI probe and set the Income Tax Department on Mayawati’s trail. 

Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, Mayawati went on to lose everything, starting from her loss in the 2012 assembly polls, followed by the 2014 elections. For the 2019 Lok Sabha elections she allied with the SP — a party she had vowed never to forgive after the guest house incident — to win only 15 seats out of 80 seats.