Soumya, a panchayat committee member, listened to her calling and returned as a bureaucrat

On October 2, 2005, 24-year-old Soumya Gopalakrishnan walked into the district panchayat complex here to take oath as a member of the panchayat committee representing the Karavalur Division after winning from there by a margin of about 7,000 votes as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate.

On February 8, 2013, she walked into the same complex not as a representative of people but as the Pathanapuram Block Development Officer (BDO) to attend an official-level on development projects for Pathanapuram. The role has changed, but Ms. Gopalakrishnan’s outlook towards the people has not, since she feels that she is now a “bureaucrat representing the people”.

When she entered the district panchayat as a representative of the people she was the youngest member of that committee. A postgraduate in Public Administration with a B.Ed. in English, she was teaching at the Kulathupuzha Model Residential School on daily wages before her stint as a politician. At that time, contesting an election did not figure in her wildest dreams, she says. Her ambition was to enter government service. It was the present Kollam district panchayat president S. Jayamohan who identified her in 2005 as a candidate for the CPI(M) from Karavalur.

There was initial reluctance, but after all she hailed from an active CPI(M) family and had been involved in the party’s Ponathumoodu branch committee. She quit the job and entered politics “only for the time being” because the call of the ‘government job’ was still there.

While serving as panchayat secretary, she appeared for the BDO test and got posted in January last year in Kozhikode.

Last month she was transferred to Pathanapuram. Now she has appeared for the Deputy Collector test.

Ms. Gopalakrishnan told The Hindu that her stint in the district panchayat helped her understand the pulse of public representatives, which helped her discharge her duties as BDO, remaining within the framework of rules.

At Pathanapuram her priority will be the Integrated Watershed Management Programme. Political considerations will never come in the way of her duty, she says, while taking pride in her past role as a representative of the people.

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