Amrita Tripathi: It's hard to imagine that she was once shy and tongue-tied. We know the stereotype of Mayawati as the Dalit leader in pink chiffon, but surprisingly little is known about her personal life.
Apparently she cooks extremely well and she also taught at a Government primary school for almost five years, but was never really a good student herself.
Behenji, a political biography of Mayawati, by senior journalist Ajoy Bose, portrays Mayawati as a low-profile woman, who paradoxically gains a firebrand reputation and finds her true calling addressing huge crowds.
It was in her early 20s when Mayawati took a big risk, teaming up with the then little-known Dalit leader, Kanshi Ram.
"Here was this man who said, 'you want to be a collector, I can get you to a place where you'll have a whole row of collectors, bowing and scraping'. And at that point, Kanshi Ram had nothing. He didn't even have a political party, but she took that gamble much against her father's wishes. Her father was dead against Kanshi Ram. I quote her father saying, 'you hang around with a loser like Kanshi Ram, you won't even become a municiapl corporator'," says Bose.
Mayawati's story is of a woman with a troubled relationship with her father, Prabhu Das, who preferred to concentrate on his six sons instead.
Bose says, "She was the best student, but she did not get any private tuition. Instead, the sons sis. It was much later — when she became so important and people started coming to her father to approach her to help them — that he came to Mayawati for help and that is when she told him, 'why don't you ask your sons, you thought they would do better'."
"Even at that early age, her relationship with her father deteriorated sharply when Kanshi Ram came into her life. She defied her father and walked out of her home," Bose adds.
Mayawati may be the most important woman in Indian politics today, but the book shows the other side of her, the side that says that once she was an overlooked daughter, who — reportedly — never forgot to milk the family buffalo even during her law exams.