Indian Express

Lok sabha Polls: The worker and the manager

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Born to social worker Indu and trade unionist Vasant Khanolkar, Patkar did an MA in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. AMIT CHAKRAVARTY As she address voters, she doesn’t appeal for votes for her or her party either. Instead, she tells people, “Iss baar soch kar vote dena. (Photo: Amit Chakravarty)

They represent two extremes — Meera Sanyal, the former bank CEO from South Mumbai’s toniest area, and Medha Patkar, the social activist of many a people’s movement from a one-bedroom house in Chembur. Now both have entered the electoral fray on AAP tickets. SHALINI NAIR trails them and tracks their style of campaigning.

Medha Patkar 

Mumbai North East

Born to social worker Indu and trade unionist Vasant Khanolkar, Patkar did an MA in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She was doing her PhD at TISS when she left midway to spearhead the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which she founded in 1989 to protest against the construction of dams along the Narmada river. Today, she is the national convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), a group of 250 mass-based movements. She married Praveen Patkar, a professor at TISS. They are separated.

It’s a small, quiet campaign unlike the high-decibel politics of her party. Travelling in an open jeep and waving to passers-by in Mulund, with only one vehicle of Aam Aadmi Party workers trailing her, Medha Patkar does the routine campaign expected of any politician before the general elections. Except that she is not your regular politician. A fact that’s hard to miss, as 59-year-old Patkar, AAP’s candidate for Mumbai North East, which goes to the polls on April 24, makes it quite clear. At one of the gatherings in Mulund, she reads out an extract from a speech made by freedom fighter Bhagat Singh: “Revolution does not necessarily involve sanguinary strife, nor is there any place in it for individual vendetta. It is not the cult of the bomb and the pistol. By ‘revolution’, we mean that the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must change.”

Such speeches are meant to underline that Patkar, the national convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), who has spent her life advocating the rights of the poor, is still more a revolutionary activist than a savvy politician. As the day gets sunnier and hotter, Patkar refuses to drink the packaged drinking water passed around at intervals, instead gulping down tap water from tumblers offered by hawkers or slum dwellers. She also prefers not to wear the AAP topi, unlike other party workers, offering only “I just feel awkward” as the reason. As she gets off her jeep to address voters in different parts of Mulund, she doesn’t appeal for votes for her or her party either. Instead, she tells people, “Iss baar soch kar vote dena (Please think before you vote this time)”.

An ardent supporter of Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement since continued…

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