Though she occasionally rides an old Kawasaki bike and always sports a kataar (dagger) gifted by the family members of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh more than two decades ago, BJP legislator from Indore Usha Thakur rarely comes across as a fierce nationalist.
‘Didi’ to all her supporters, the 48-year-old BJP leader has caught the nation’s eye with her prescription to control ‘love jihad’ by keeping Muslim men off garba venues. She quotes a ‘survey’ that every year 4.5 lakh Hindu women convert after the festival of nine-nights during which Muslim men enter garba venues by sporting a tilak on their forehead and a sacred thread on their wrist.
The BJP vice-president and in charge of party’s culture cell has campaigned for traditional songs and clothes during navratri in the past but it is the first time that convener of Samagra Kranti Chetna Manch has included ‘love jihad’ in her scheme of things and suggested a solution to allow only Hindu men by checking their electoral photo-identity cards.
She began her activism in 1989 when she was named the Boudhik Pramukh of Rashtra Sevika Samiti in Indore. An MPhil and a post-graduate in education and history, she has been an active member of the Durga Vahini.
“I chose not to marry. Since childhood I wanted someone from my family to devote his or her life to the cause of religion and nation,’’ says Usha, who is one of the five children born to her parents, both of whom taught English. After his retirement, her father built a gaushala on Sanver Road, which she calls “an old age home for cows”.
In 1990, four years before she was elected a municipal councilor, Bhagat Singh’s family gifted her a kataar, which she describes as the most memorable moment of her life. She carries the weapon even to the Assembly when it’s in session. “I feel incredibly powerful when I wear it even today”. The “inexpensive and beautiful bike’’ was bought in 1994.
She says she is associated with 100 bhajan mandalis and organises Sunderkand every week in Indore-1 and Indore-3 constituencies. She was elected to the Assembly for the first time in 2003 from Indore-1 and for the second time in 2013 from Indore-3. Going by her affidavit, she was the poorest BJP candidate declaring assets of just Rs 1.37 lakh.
She shifted her constituency, much to the dislike of several contenders who said she stood no chance against Ashwin Joshi. But she won by a comfortable margin of more than 13,000.
“Who gave her the mandate to engage in moral policing? When girls aged 18 or more willingly marry into other religions how could that be objected to,’’ says Joshi.