One of India’s best-known politicians, Mayawati, has shocked the country by announcing she will not run in the upcoming general election.
She said she would instead “concentrate on an alliance” formed to counter the influence of the ruling BJP.
Ms Mayawati is an icon for India’s low-caste Dalits and a four-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the most number of MPs to parliament.
General elections will be held on 11 April and continue until 19 May.
Regional parties like Ms Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are expected to be the kingmakers in this year’s election, particularly if there is no clear majority for any one party.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Mayawati said she will not contest the upcoming polls, before adding that she can “win a Lok Sabha election whenever I want”.
“Keeping in mind the current political situation, I have decided not to contest Lok Sabha polls,” she told reporters.
“I can’t let the alliance suffer at any cost. Winning more seats is more important than my victory.”
Ms Mayawati’s BSP has allied itself with the Samajwadi Party (SP), a regional rival ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. They are part of a wider national alliance against the ruling BJP.
Ms Mayawati, who was elected to India’s upper house or Rajya Sabha in 2012, quit her post last year amid caste violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Sahranpur district.
She lost the 2012 state election in Uttar Pradesh to the SP.