Chhattisgarh 2018

Humble first-timers turn giant killers in Chhattisgarh

Ram Kumar Yadav, 40, shivers at the thought of the winters in Srinagar, where his family worked for a couple of years as migrant labourers. Today, he is a newly minted Congress legislator who defeated Gitanjali Patel, daughter-in-law of the late Dilip Singh Judeo, a BJP leader, in Chandrapur in Chhattisgarh.

Of the 68 Congress candidates who won in the State, at least 35 are first-timers — many who worked their way up against all odds. Mr. Yadav’s family of landless labourers used to survive by taking up the traditional vocation of shepherding cattle.

“I still remember watching people ride bicycles with much hope that maybe if I stuck around a bit longer, I might be allowed to ride too,” he said. He studied up to high school. He took his first step into politics with a campaign to build a road to his village. After a stint in the BSP for a few years, he joined the Congress — just months before the Assembly elections. He crowdsourced funds to fight the election. “In every house that I visited during the campaign, they would throw a garland of currency notes around my neck. My election declaration is full of zeros. I have no bank balance, no house, no gold and no wife,” he laughs.

Kunwar Singh Nishad has a similar story. He comes from a family of fishermen. He is the first person from his village to reach college. “Every day, after school, I would remove my uniform and climb down into the pond to help my father fish and then work at my elder brother’s cycle workshop,” he said.

He started on a cultural platform, Lok Rang, multitasking as choreographer, actor, set designer and make-up artist. “I am a folk artist,” he says with much pride. He first fought the panchayat elections in 1994. “There were many contenders with immense resources, but thankfully the party picked me,” he says.

Shakuntala Sahu, 32, has not seen economic hardship, but this first-timer with a “double MA” faced a formidable opponent in Assembly Speaker Gauri Shankar Agarwal in Kasdol. She defeated him by over 48,000 votes. Her mother had been a sarpanch and groomed her for a life in politics.

But it was failure that inspired her. Ms. Sahu says that despite having the necessary rank to join the Chhattisgarh police, she lost out. She alleges that the Raman Singh government “sold the seats”. “That day I took a pledge that I will not apply for any government job. I told my parents that I will not marry till I am elected legislator. Today I have fulfilled my pledge,” she says.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 5:36:06 PM |

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