Insight: India's "Dalit queen" faces polls

Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:24am EST
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By Frank Jack Daniel and John Chalmers

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - By her own standards, Kumari Mayawati's birthday celebrations were low-key this year.

After driving through a red-carpeted tunnel of plaster elephant tusks in an Ambassador, India's retro-looking national car, the chief minister of India's largest state swept past a coterie of her party's workers, who bowed and touched her feet.

Diamonds adorned the diminutive figure of "the Dalit Queen," encrusting her necklace, a bracelet, her earrings, a nose-ring and her watch, as she accepted a few bouquets of flowers and marched about briskly in the marigold-draped party headquarters.

But the huge crowds of gaping admirers were missing this year; there was no garland of banknotes, no upper-caste Brahmin on hand to symbolically pop a morsel of birthday cake into the mouth of an "untouchable" who has risen from the bottom of India's social pile to become one of the most powerful women in the world.

That's because election campaign rules are now in effect for staggered polls to be held in February and March in Uttar Pradesh.


Graphic: Uttar Pradesh growth

SPECIAL REPORT: Gandhi dynasty   Continued...

<p>A waiter serves snacks to the media as a picture of Mayawati, the chief minister of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is seen in the background before her news conference in Lucknow January 15, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi</p>