For her strong political roots, Poonam Mahajan, daughter of slain Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pramod Mahajan and the niece of BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde, will make a strong contender.
She is set to debut in this Assembly election from the Ghatkopar (West) constituency, in suburban Mumbai. With the strength of the BJP in the area and her father’s political legacy, she is off to a good start.
Platform to serve people
Amidst the thick of party activity, a young and confident Ms. Mahajan tells The Hindu that she has come to politics as it provides 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 the ticket. It is not me who decides, it is the party which decides what the party workers should be doing.”
Ms. Mahajan cites pressure from party workers, which led her to take the plunge. However, her nomination has upset many who protested outside her house.
Trend of rebels
Ms. Mahajan says, “There is a trend in Maharashtra of rebels, for every party. Everyone has aspirations; the workers work hard. But, the party has to decide; they can’t choose 10 candidates from 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. You have to give yourself to the organisation. The party has given me a certain responsibility. My responsibility is winning an election.”
The debutant feels there are many issues to rake up from the 10 years of the Democratic Front’s regime.
The ones closer to her heart are women’s issues and unemployment. “As a young person, unemployment concerns me; as a woman, its price rise. 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 among women. Water supply and slum rehabilitation will also be on her agenda, and above all the price rise.
Pitched against Ms. Mahajan are Ram Kadam of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Janet D Souza, a Congress corporator. D Souza’s is an unheard name, but Mr. Kadam’s is well-known. He will pose a significant threat to Ms. Mahajan in a constituency dominated by Maharashtrians. Locals, such as Ratan Majumdar, opine that the campaigning by her bother, Rahul Mahajan, who has fallen into disrepute, is likely to affect her image.
Undeterred, Ms. Mahajan says the competition is with herself. “No one is a tougher contender for me than myself. I am a good person, 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 will not help me in the long term and I understand that.”
‘Hindutva is development’
She also pledges allegiance to her party’s long-standing ideology. “I am born with the ideology. Vikas [development] is our ideology. Hindutva means development. At least we are a party with an ideology. There are parties with no ideology. The vote bank is their ideology.”