Kumari Mayawati is the first chief minister of Uttar Pradesh from the erstwhile untouchable community known locally as Dalits.
She heads the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which represents the Bahujans. This is her fourth term as chief minister of the electorally crucial state. She had held this position thrice in the past - 1995, 1997, 2003 - although she could not complete her terms.
|Mayawati is considered one of the richest chief ministers in the country [Reuters]
Mayawati is a law graduate from the University of Delhi, and subsequently did her Bachelor of Education [BEd] from a college in the city of Ghaziabad in her home state.
She was a founding member of the BSP along with Kanshi Ram in 1984. She made it to the country's parliament in 1989 after winning from Bijnor constituency in UP.
In 2001, her mentor, BSP President Kanshi Ram, anointed her as his successor.
Belonging to the Jatav subcaste of the Chamar community, one of the lowest rung in India’s caste ladder, she has gone on to become one of the richest chief ministers in the country.
According to the National Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms, her current assets amount to Rs 87 crore [$1,77,13,200].
In 2007, Newsweek magazine featured her in the list of the top eight women achievers. Many political analysts credit her for a successful experiment of social engineering in a caste-fractured state.
But the Dalit leader has been a controversial figure, and single-handedly runs the party with little internal party democracy.
Ater a disproportionate assets case was filed against her in 2007, she got a clean chit from the court.
In 2011, diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks - based on the opinions of American civil servants - revealed that Mayawati ran all governmental decisions through her small group of advisers. The diplomatic cables also alleged that Mayawati once sent a private jet to Mumbai to retrieve her sandals, which she denied later.
Her current tenure has been marked by controversy over the building of colossus memorials and erecting thousands of statues of Dalit leaders, including Dalit icon BR Ambedkar and herself across the state.
The move was widely criticised as a waste of public money, and the country’s top court even briefly put a stop to the works at those monuments, but later allowed on the ground that they were already in advanced stage of completion.
Recently, the country's top electoral body ordered that all statues of Mayawati and the elephant (the party symbol) be covered in view of the legislative elections being held in Uttar Pradesh.
Rahul Gandhi is considered a scion of India’s ruling Congress party.
His great-grandfather, Jawahar Lal Nehru, was India’s first prime minister, while his grandmother, Indira Gandhi, was one of the most powerful prime ministers of independent India.
His father Rajiv Gandhi was the youngest prime minister of India when he headed the government in 1984 at the age of 40.
|Rahul Gandhi is apparently being groomed to be
the next prime minister[Reuters]
Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv’s Italian-born widow, who currently heads the Congress party, has been grooming Rahul to take the reins of the party.
Rahul formally entered politics in 2004 by contesting and winning election from his family’s traditional Amethi constituency in UP.
In 2007, he played a major role in Congress' election campaign in Uttar Pradesh. But the party failed to reverse its declining fortunes there.
He was named Congress party’s general secretary the same year. At the same time, he was also given charge of the Indian Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. His leadership has seen a massive increase in the membership numbers of the Youth Congress - an organisation on which he has been working very hard.
Rahul has been credited with the impressive showing of Congress party in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in UP.
In the past years he has been extensively touring the length and breadth of the state which also sends 80 members to the 543-seat Indian parliament.
He was arrested last year when he joined a farmers’ protest against land acquisition.
Rahul, along with his sister and mother, have emerged as the star campaigners for the party.
Rahul attended some of the finest educational institutions in India and abroad, namely, St Stephen’s College in Delhi and Harvard University, Rollins College and Trinity College. It is said that due to security reasons he assumed the pseudonym of Raul Vinci while he was studying.
He worked in London before returning to work in Mumbai (earlier Bombay) in 2002.
Mulayam Singh Yadav
Mulayam Singh Yadav is a three-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and a former defence minister of the country.
He is an influential backward caste leader and his Samajwadi party founded in 1992 holds influence in this large state.
|Mulayam Singh Yadav is seeking to wrest back power from Mayawati [Source: Samajwadi Party website]
Yadav is currently a member of the Lok Sabha from the Mainpuri constituency in UP.
He was first elected to the UP provincial assembly in 1967 and was jailed in 1975 when Indira Gandhi suspended civil rights and declared emergency.
He became the chief minister of UP for the first time in 1989. He was the chief minister of the state again in 1993 and 2003.
In 2012, he expelled his key aide Amar Singh from the party due to major differences between the two.
A case regarding disproportionate assets owned by him and his family members is currently pending in the Indian Supreme Court.
In recent years, Yadav has promoted his son to lead the party. Now, the question is if his party does well in the elections, who will become chief minister?
Uma Ragini Bharati is a mercurial Indian politician belonging to the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Born into a deeply religious family in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, she rose to fame during the Ram Temple movement during early nineties.
|Uma Bharati is known for her short temper[Source: BJP website]
Later in 2009, after she was indicted by the Liberhan Commission report, as one of those responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid, Bharati told Indian media that she took moral responsibility for the incident.
But she said she will fight it legally as she can easily prove that she had no hand in the destruction of the controversial mosque built by Mughal ruler Babar in sixteenth century.
In 1989, she made it to India’s parliament from ancient temple town of Khajurao in Madhya Pradesh, and subsequently won from here in 1991, 1996 and 1998. In 1999, she switched over and won the Bhopal seat in the state.
She held various ministerial portfolios when the BJP headed the federal government between 1998-2004.
In 2003, she became chief minister of Madhya Pradesh after leading the BJP to a majority. However, her tenure lasted only for a year as she resigned after an arrest warrant was issued against her in connection with a riot case.
She has been twice expelled from the party owing to her short temper and indiscipline.
She formed her own party but it failed to make any mark in the elections, and later her 'padyatra' (spiritual journey) from Bhopal to Ayodhya called Ram Roti Yatra, turned out to be a flop.
She remained in political wilderness until the BJP decided to bring her back last year to revive the fortunes of the party in Uttar Pradesh.
A win in the state would throw her into the forefront of Uttar Pradesh politics and a defeat may not save her from sinking into oblivion.