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Maharashtra polls: Meet AAP’s candidate— TISS alumnus, prohibition activist

Over these years, Goswami has fought many a battle for the underprivileged, downtrodden and women in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, she is a postgraduate in Arts and also has an LLB degree.

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur | October 7, 2019 2:14:43 am
Paromita Goswami

After nearly two decades of working as an activist, she has decided to take the plunge into the electoral fray. Paromita Goswami (49) is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from the Brahmapuri Assembly constituency in Chandrapur district.

Over these years, Goswami has fought many a battle for the underprivileged, downtrodden and women in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, she is a postgraduate in Arts and also has an LLB degree. Goswami was also an Ashoka Fellow in 2002, an Eisenhower Fellow in 2004 and a Yale Fellow in 2005. Her association with AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal goes back to her being his senior in the Ashoka Fellowship alumni group. Much before he spearheaded the India Against Corruption movement along with Anna Hazare, Kejriwal had visited Mul, from where Goswami ran her NGO Shramik Elgar, to see her work.

AAP national executive member and spokesperson Preeti Menon-Sharma told The Indian Express, “Undoubtedly, she will be our candidate from Brahmapuri but the official announcement will be made on Monday or Tuesday. We chose her because she has worked among people for long and her work goes beyond caste and communities… She will lead the AAP in the Vidarbha region.”

Goswami recently quit Elgar to fight the elections. Her supporters have coined the slogan ‘Vikasachi hami, Paromita Goswami (Paromita Goswami is guarantee of development)’. But this is not her first attempt at electoral politics. She had approached the Congress during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but did not get a ticket. Brahmapuri is presently held by Congress strongman and former minister Vijay Wadettiwar, who had wrested it from BJP’s Atul Deshkar in 2014. The seat has 2.80 lakh voters, 1.37 lakh of whom are women.

Goswami is counting her luck on her popularity among women voters — she was the prime mover behind the 2015 decision of the state government to declare prohibition in Chandrapur district. In fact, in the 2014 Assembly elections, Goswami had openly supported BJP’s Sudhir Mungantiwar for his promise to declare prohibition if elected. This had earned her the charge of being a BJP supporter. “Even now, I have agreed to being the AAP candidate on the promise that party leader Sanjay Singh will forcefully raise the issue of 15,000 non-tribal jabran jotdaars (encroachers) whose claims for land pattas under the Forest Rights Act have been rejected,” she says.

Working for tribal as well as non-tribal people in Chandrapur district’s Rajura and Jeevti tehsils, Goswami, who is from Kolkata, has come a long way. As an activist, one of her first battles was to secure justice for the family of Chinna Mattami, a tribal youth from Markanar village in Gadchiroli district, who was killed in a controversial encounter in 2001. This had led to allegations of her being a Naxalite. From restoring the land of Kolam tribals from Manikgadh 25 years after they were removed from their villages by settlers from Marathwada to securing benefits of various government schemes for deprived people, Goswami has fought many a battle on the streets, in the corridors of power and in courts. In doing so, she also faced stiff resistance from vested interests. A powerful local BJP functionary, who had allegedly beaten up a tribal woman, had once slapped the Atrocities Act against her, later rejected by the High Court.

On October 21, she will be pitted against Wadettiwar, most likely to be retained by the Congress and BJP’s Deshkar, another probable. The third possible candidate is Sandip Gaddamwar of the NCP.

“My connect with people, women in particular, is my main strength. I have been to almost every village in the constituency… I am trying to get crowd-funding for it. Possible candidates from other parties have already started distributing saris, mixers, umbrellas and T-shirts,” she says, adding, “I have no such thing to deliver nor do I fancy such politics. I am telling people that I will continue to do what I have been doing with greater vigour. My idea of development is providing a bus in every village, land pattas to the deprived, better health and education facilities, gharkuls for all, bamboos for traditional artisans, etc,” she says.

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