Praniti Shinde, daughter of the former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, believes she got the ticket for the Assembly elections on her own merit.
“Of course, I am recognised as so-and-so’s daughter,” she says, “but I was selected as a candidate because of my work.”
After graduating in politics and economics from Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College, Ms. Shinde (28) obtained a degree in law. Subsequently, she founded Jai-Jui, an NGO that works with women and youth in Solapur, her father’s constituency. “Through this, we set up over 1,000 SHGs [self-help groups] and 50 small-scale industries for women,” she says.
She is contesting in the Solapur City Central constituency. She has identified the issues of workers in handlooms, powerlooms and beedi factories as her priority.
As she visits a beedi factory, Ms. Shinde’s claims of merit-over-lineage come under the scanner. She is introduced by her campaign managers as “Sushil Kumar Shinde’s daughter,” while her NGO finds little mention. She herself informs them of her work in the last few years but goes on to stand on her father’s shoulders.
“When the skull and bone symbol was printed on beedi packets,” she tells them, “it was Shinde saheb who intervened and reversed the step. It was Shinde saheb who got 10,000 houses built for beedi workers. Adam Master [the incumbent MLA of the CPI-M] only took credit for it.” A political observer, however, contradicts her claim.
Ms. Shinde says that she would ensure issue of yellow Below Poverty Line cards for all of them. “Take out 15 minutes for me on election day. What is 15 minutes then? I will spend 15 life spans with you,” she says, drawing applause.
Guarding against undermining her voters, she says, “All of you are intelligent. You don’t need to go by what I am saying.” Then, doing a Henry Ford giving his customers the choice to have their cars in any colour so long as it was black, she says, “Vote for anyone you want, but let it be ‘the hand’ [the Congress’ symbol].”
Most of the beedi workers are migrants from Andhra Pradesh. Adding a personal touch, therefore, her campaigners address them in Telugu and refer to Ms. Shinde as their akka and chellelu (sister). “Only a woman can understand a woman’s problems,” her campaigner tells women workers.
Ms. Shinde is not new to politics. Though this is her first election, she has accompanied her father during campaigns.
Despite her political initiation, Ms. Shinde is a reluctant leader. “I was happy with my social work,” she says. “But a political designation helps speed up things.” She admits that she is not good at making speeches, finding it easier to interact with people directly.
At the end of her campaigning, during which she rode on her father’s name and made speeches, one such moment of interaction arrives. “Where do you live,” she asks a woman worker. As the worker mutters a reply, Ms. Shinde smiles to her and rolls up the window of her car. To her campaign managers, she dismissively says, “That doesn’t fall within our constituency,” as the car drives away.