Four women, who are known for their prowess in public speaking and have a large following in their respective communities, are among the 37 candidates of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) for the Lok Sabha elections. The four VBA candidates are research scholar Dr Aruna Mali, singer Kiran Rodge Patankar and community leaders Anjali Bawiskar and Suman Koli from the Shimpi and Koli communities, respectively.
Kiran Rodge Patankar, who is from the Buddhist community, will contest from Ramtek. Patankar had contested in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket and garnered 95,051 votes. She has declared her support for the VBA, headed by Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, and pointed out that in 2014, during a ‘Modi wave’, she was able to garner almost one lakh votes .
“I have been very vocal and most of my songs and albums are related to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and his works,” said Patankar, who will contest against Shiv Sena candidate Krupal Tumane. Patankar feels her strong points also include a command over Urdu and reaching out to the Muslim community.
Dr Aruna Mali, a research scholar with a PhD in plant and life sciences, will contest on a VBA ticket from Kolhapur. “Unemployment among the youth is a major issue and I have taken part in several campaigns at the Shivaji University at Kolhapur, and other places, to raise this issue,” said Mali, adding that she is also unemployed.
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“We work on contract basis as and when there are projects,” said Mali. She was among the women who pressed for the entry of women in the inner sanctum of the historical Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur district. She will face Sanjay Mandlik from Shiv Sena and Dhananjay Mahadik from NCP. “Despite such political heavyweights in the fray, I am not scared as people are fed up of generations of families dominating politics,” added Mali.
The VBA’s candidate from Raigad, Suman Koli, said she was close to former chief minister A R Antulay. “We are from the Koli community and also espouse Babasaheb Ambedkar’s ideology,” she said.
“When Prakash Ambedkar decided to bring all the communities together, I felt that it was high time to do so,” added Koli.
She said she has helped set up 350 mahila mandals in Panvel while working at the forefront of the Akhil Bharatiya Koli Samaj. In Raigad, she will contest against Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete.
The fourth candidate, Anjali Bawiskar from Jalgaon, hails from the Shimpi community. “There are some 50,000-60,000 people from our community and we have been raising our voices on various issues,” said Bawiskar, who has served as the district president of the All India Shimpi Samaj.