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Geniben Thakor interview: ‘BJP’s choice of a Thakor candidate is merely a ploy to divide votes. Don’t let that happen’

Geniben Thakor, 46, is contesting her fourth Assembly election.

Genibhen Thakor, the sitting Congress MLA from Vav Assembly constituency in Banaskantha district,. (Photo: Geniben Thakor/Facebook)

The firebrand sitting Congress MLA from Vav Assembly constituency in Banaskantha district, Geniben Thakor, 46, is contesting her fourth Assembly election. A tall role-model for the community, Geniben represents women from the rural Thakor community that records a higher female dropout rate in secondary classes than others in the state, and even passes community resolutions not to allow them cell phones.

How is the 2022 election different from the three previous ones for you?

I’m the sitting MLA. In the last five years, all the promises I had made—be it on water, education or health—we have been successful in completing these. Due to our work, there is a better connect with the public and an established trust factor. With this, I can say that I’ll win with a bigger margin this time.

Does the possibility of division in your community vote worry you? Why do you remind this to voters in all of your sabhas?

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A fracture in the community vote could be a major factor in this election. I’m reiterating it because both candidates (BJP and Congress) are of the same caste. In that case, votes get divided, which should not happen. I’m telling everyone to avoid any division of votes. Also, the BJP’s candidate (Swarupji Thakor) has no vajood (identity, ie, he is an unknown face). It’s merely a ploy to divide votes. So, I’m alerting voters not to get misguided and vote for the Congress. I’m reminding them not to repeat the results from 2012, when the [Thakor] votes got divided between me and the NCP candidate.

What are the local issues this time?

Local issues I’m stressing upon are roads connecting villages, water for irrigation, education facilities by the government and not privatisation of education, as most people in rural areas can’t afford private schools. I’m trying to improve the quality of government education here.

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Unemployment is another big issue here. Youth are educated but unemployed. Houses are running only on cattle rearing and agriculture. In future, I want to bring GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) promoted industries like diamond-cutting, embroidery work, etc., to smaller towns, and especially for women, so that people can earn while sitting at home. This is our aim and I’ll fulfil it.

Any plans to address low female literacy and empowerment in your community?

I came into politics due to my father. I’ve been in politics now for 28-29 years, starting at the taluka panchayat, then the zila panchayat and then to the Vidhan Sabha. This is my fourth Vidhan Sabha election, and eighth in total. I’ve contested on general seats too. Women generally contest for smaller positions like taluka, zila panchayat and local bodies, but due to lack of education, they are unable to handle the daily administration even in these. Due to this, they are unable to progress and face difficulties. The educated sections should come into politics and contest elections. I’ll motivate educated women to contest local body elections.

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How can women advance if major parties don’t let them contest polls? Is it a lack of trust in women candidates?

In my case, I can’t complain about the Congress. This is my fourth Assembly poll. Parties choose women candidates for seats where women are active, based on survey reports, people’s representations and recommendations of party workers. Contesting an election for an Assembly constituency of 2.5-3 lakh voters, that too, independently, is very difficult for a woman. Only those women who have handled local body elections and administration independently, can tackle Assembly elections.

Why then do parties promise larger representation for women and youth before polls?

The Vidhan Sabha elections are not contested on quotas like youth and women, but on recommendations of local people, caste equations, survey reports and contributions to the party. Connectivity with people in an area is another important factor.

In your political career, what are the problems you have faced as a woman?

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Not too many. The reason is that my family, who are Congress workers, have always given me support and love. They have never let me feel that I’m incapable of some work as a female. No candidate, irrespective of how powerful they are or the caste they belong to, can win such a big election on his/her own, without community leaders supporting them as if they themselves are contesting. No candidate can win on his own, just on the basis of their personal charisma or their party’s mandate.

First published on: 28-11-2022 at 21:15 IST
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