The late Kanshi Ram may have been the soul of the Bahujan Samaj Party but it was Mayawati, his chosen heiress, who was its face. As well as head and heart. Urban and urbane India may never comprehend her politics or its success, but to the millions of Dalits she remains the biggest hope.
In 2002, she was the first Dalit woman -- a double minority, if you please -- to become a chief minister, when her party tied up with its foe the BJP to keep Mulayam Singh out.
As UP prepares for another round of hard-fought elections, Mayawati will remain central to its outcome.
What not to ask her: Will you patch up with Mulayam?
Photograph: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images