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She's a former school teacher from the lowest caste in India--the "untouchable" Dalits. Her mother was illiterate and her father worked as a clerk. Now Mayawati, the one-named Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, collects diamonds and homes and pays more income tax than any other Indian politician. The AP notes that "On her birthday, which she renamed Dalit 'Self-Respect Day,' officials line up to pay her fealty." In fact, refusal to pay allegedly led to the lynching of an executive engineer.

She also wants to be prime minister of India, though at the moment, it's a very long shot.

The nation heads into the largest Democratic vote in the world on Thursday, and if her socialist-leaning Bahujan Samaj Party wins enough of it, it's almost certain that party chairwoman Mayawati will have risen from "Untouchable" to Prime Minister. It looks very unlikely, however--though neither the ruling left-leaning Congress Party nor the right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party look likely to win enough to form a government without a coalition, Bahujan Samaj doesn't look poised to seriously challenge either at this time.

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