Shakina Ansari, 65, well known in Surat as Shakina “Daruwali”, rode an open jeep with her son Akram, urging people to vote for him on December 9. Akram, formerly a Congress councillor from Limbayat ward of Surat, is now NCP candidate from Limbayat.
The seat is held by the BJP’s Sangita Patil; the Congress candidate is Ravindra Patil, formerly a BJP corporator. Ansari could potentially split the Congress votes, which could benefit the BJP. He is one of 9 NCP candidates contesting in the 16 seats of Surat district.
Limbayat is dominated by people with roots in Maharashtra, North Indian states and Andhra Pradesh. The BJP and Congress candidates hail originally from Maharashtra, while Akram traces his roots to UP.
Said to have been a bootlegger and a lady don, Shakina agreed that she once bootlegged and narrated an incident when she claimed to have beaten up two men. Until not so long ago, Shakina would meet people at her home, sitting on a wooden chair, chewing a paan, and listening to their issues and trying to sort them out. These ranged from quarrels between husband and wife, police harassment, and issues relating to municipal corporation officials. She would win over children by distributing sweets as they went to school.
Hailing from a farmer family in Varanasi, Shakina married Amanullah Ansari when she was 13 and came to Surat. Amanullah sold sarees and did odd jobs; Shakina worked as a domestic help. The couple had eight children, with Akram the eldest. Amanullah died when the youngest was 3.
Shakina mopped floors in Mahidarpura police station and claims policemen gave her hooch to sell — which, she says, is how she became a bootlegger. She bought a plot in Limbayat and sold hooch to textile labourers. “Everybody was shocked to a woman selling liquor,” she told The Indian Express. “When I moved to Limbayat 35 years ago, there was wilderness here. Women would be harassed by local goons. One day I saw two men harassing women. I first warned them. When they did not listen, I beat them up with a stick.”
She claimed she donated the money she earned to hospitals and schools, and gave up selling liquor 10-12 years ago. She faced several cases under the Prohibition Act.
Hamid Shaikh, 53, of Limbayat, an accountant, recalled Shakina: “She lived near our home and she used to sell liquor outside her house. We opposed it but she threatened us. Later she moved to another locality. We were happy when she left; not all like her, she is always intimidating people.”
Akram said their family helped people in the riots following the Babri demolition. “We ensured that in our areas, no rioting took place. We have a good image among people in Limbayat,” said Akram, fighting his first first assembly election.
“I am very proud of my eldest son,” Shakina said. “Even at this age, I will put in all my effort to ensure his victory. Sangita (BJP) and Dr Ravindra (Congress) know me; they are good people, but I have to work for my son. Once, politicians would come home and seek my help.”
Sangita Patil said, “My victory is certain, as I have done work like autorickshaws to the poor under central schemes, sewing machines to women, bank accounts. Akram Ansari will split the Muslim vote; I will win.”
Dr Ravindra Patil is banking on his medical practice. “I am confident as I have been municipal councillor (formerly BJP) for four terms. My team consists of my four children who are all doctors — sons Nikunj and Nikhil are doing internship after MBBS and accompany me, while daughters Poonam [a dermatologist] and Bhavna [a gynaecologist] campaign on social media.”