MAYAWATI SAT IN THE LIVING ROOM of her Delhi residence, on Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road, her eyes fixed on a television screen. A sense of gloom pervaded the house. It was the afternoon of 16 May 2014, the day that votes were to be counted for the sixteenth general election, and the news was dismal for her Bahujan Samaj Party. The BSP’s electoral fortunes, it appeared, had been crushed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, which looked set to win by a comfortable majority.
She noticed a stain on the white towel draped over the back of the sofa on which she sat. Summoning one of her housekeepers, Mayawati scolded her for the oversight. The towel was changed immediately. “She is finicky about cleanliness,” a top-rung BSP leader who was with her that day told me. “Gets the house mopped thrice a day.”
Mayawati complained that the room was not cool enough and looked around for the remote to the air conditioner. “All remotes—TV, air conditioning—have to be laid down neatly on the centre table,” the leader told me. “The AC remote was missing that day.” Mayawati’s housekeeping staff got another scolding, after which the remote was located and brought back to the table. For the next few hours, as the results unfolded, her staff and party colleagues tiptoed around her.