Last week, the American magazine Business Week selected Mayawati, the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, as one of the 50 most powerful people in India. How did the equivalent of a state Governor from one of India’s most backward states make it onto this list?
Uttar Pradesh (UP) is India’s largest state. Approximately 170 million people live there, 1/6 of the Indian population, and a substantial proportion of the world’s poor. Most of India’s prime ministers have come from U. P. and the state is also at the center of the important transformation of caste politics in India in the last two decades.
Mayawati is indeed the most powerful Dalit (the group formerly known as “untouchable,”) leader in India today. This is her fourth stint as Chief Minister, but it is the first time that she commands a stable majority in the state legislature. In fact, her recently inaugurated government is the first majority government in U. P. in about 15 years. Unstable coalitions have been blamed for U. P.’s notoriously inefficient and corrupt government, so, if the analysts are right, we should expect big things from a stable majority.