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Updated: October 2, 2009 03:05 IST

Poonam on a safe wicket

Rahi Gaikwad
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Poonam Mahajan, who is contesting from Ghatkopar (West). File Photo: Vivek Bendre
The Hindu
Poonam Mahajan, who is contesting from Ghatkopar (West). File Photo: Vivek Bendre

With her strong political roots, Poonam Mahajan, daughter of the slain Bharatiya Janata Party leader Pramod Mahajan and niece of BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde, will make a strong contender in the Maharashtra Assembly elections.

Thanks to the strength of the BJP in the constituency and her father’s political legacy, the young debutant is off to a good start in Ghatkopar (West) in suburban Mumbai.

“Medium for people”

In the thick of her political preoccupations, a confident Poonam told The Hindu that she came to politics as it provided a platform to work for people. “Policies are made by politicians and you have to make policies in the Vidhan Sabha or the Lok Sabha. You have to become the medium for people and I think the party must have seen it in me and given me ticket. It is not me who decides, it is the party which decides what the party workers should be doing.”

Ms. Mahajan also cites pressure from party workers, which led her to take the plunge. However, her nomination has upset many who protested outside her house.

To this, she says there is a trend of rebellion in every party. “Everyone has aspirations; the workers work hard. But the party has to decide; they can’t choose 10 candidates for one constituency. They decide on who has the winning capability. I appreciate whatever they [dissenters] feel. I take it as a natural feeling. A party worker can’t go beyond the party’s rule. We can’t be bigger than the party, that is what we have learnt from our father. The party has given me a certain responsibility. My responsibility is winning an election.”

Among the many questions which, she says, cropped up from the 10 years of the Democratic Front’s regime, the ones closer to her heart are women’s issues and unemployment.

“The Congress-NCP promised one crore jobs, but gave only one lakh. Health and education for women are also critical issues. In Maharashtra, zilla parishad schools give Re. 1 to girl students of SC/ST communities as an incentive to attend classes. However, young girls prefer going to the fields for Rs. 50. You feel sad you can’t even educate them. I feel this scheme should not be restricted to particular castes.”

According to Ms. Mahajan, a lot of her appeal lies with women. Water supply and slum rehabilitation will also be on her agenda, and above all price rise.

Pitted against her are Ram Kadam of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Janet D’Souza, a Congress corporator. D’Souza is unheard of, but Mr. Kadam is well known. He will pose a threat to Ms. Mahajan in a constituency dominated by Maharashtrians. Locals, such as Ratan Majumdar, say campaigning by her bother, Rahul Mahajan, who has lost his reputation, is likely to affect her image.

But an Undeterred Poonam says the competition is with herself. “No one is a tougher contender for me than myself. I will be good to people. I have worked among the children of nomadic tribes for eight years in an ashram school in Osmanabad. In Amravati, I was involved with a hospital for pregnant women and malnourished children. The past three years, I have been part of many local corporation elections. People won’t vote me as Pramod Mahajan’s daughter; they will vote for my work, on whether I will be able to deliver. That becomes my own identity. Being the daughter [of Pramod Mahajan] will not help me in the long term and I understand that.”

‘Hindutva is development’

She pledges allegiance to her party’s ideology. “ Vikas [development] is our ideology. Hindutva means development. At least we are a party with an ideology. There are parties with no ideology. Vote bank is their ideology.”

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