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. 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. 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. In 1983 she acquired her LL.B from Delhi University.
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 to parliament as the representative for Bijnor, with 183,189 votes, winning by 8,879 votes. 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 and two seats 1991. Mayawati was first elected to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in 1994. 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. She won election to the Lok Sabha in two different constituencies in 1996 and chose to serve for Harora. 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 Kanshi Ram named her as his successor to the party leadership. 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. Mayawati instituted reforms to introduce transparency into the recruiting process, including posting the results of selection exams online.
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%). 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. On 13 March 2012 she filed nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha, and she was declared elected unopposed on 22 March. On 15 November 2011, Mayawati’s cabinet approved partitioning Uttar Pradesh into four different states for better administration and governance
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. In October 2011 Mayawati inaugurated the Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden, built at a cost of 685 crore. Since the memorial also features her own statues, Mayawati was accused by the Indian National Congress of wasting the taxpayers’ money.
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.
Mayawati’s political career has attracted praise and controversy. She has been praised for her fundraising efforts on behalf of her party and her birthdays have become major media events as well as a symbol for her supporters. The increase in her personal wealth and that of her party have been viewed by critics as signs of corruption. Mayawati’s career has been called a “miracle of democracy” by former Prime Minister of India P. V. Narasimha Rao. Millions of Dalit supporters view her as an icon and refer to her as “Behen-ji” (sister).
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
A Political Biography of Mayawati is a biography by veteran journalist Ajoy Bose.