AT 31, Raksha Khadse is no longer nervous. The young widow has emerged out of the shadow of her mentor and father-in-law Eknath Khadse to carve her own political identity. In an interview to Shubhangi Khapre, she talks about her renomination from Raver constituency in north Maharashtra. Excerpts:
How would you explain your renomination from Raver seat?
I consider it a great opportunity to take ahead the good work in my constituency. My father-in-law Eknath Khadse has worked hard over the past several decades to build and strengthen this region. I too personally ensured that I reached out to a maximum number of people in the last four-and-a-half years. Unlike in the past, when members remained inconspicuous, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it mandatory for all members to work at the grassroots.
In the 2014 elections, you made a debut without any political background. What are the lessons that you have learnt?
After my husband Nikhil Khadse’s death, the family and the BJP decided to give me the Lok Sabha ticket in 2014. I focused my work towards issues, especially those related to agriculture and the youth. The biggest lesson that I learnt was if you are with people, they will always stand by you. I took up the initiative to ensure at least 80 per cent work and projects were completed.
Does the name Khadse give you political advantage?
Being the daughter-in-law of an established senior party leader certainly gave me the advantage. But having said that, there is another side to this as people’s expectations keep rising. Initially, I was nervous about how I would strike a balance between family and politics. I learnt it the hard way.
The Congress-NCP was trying to get Eknath Khadse into their party, citing he has been sidelined by the BJP? How do you perceive the developments?
Yes, I feel bad about the developments. But he has also set a great example by remaining absolutely committed to the BJP. He has always worked for the organisation and continues to do that with confidence. At a time when there are so many people switching parties, Khadseji has remained committed and stood with the BJP.
In 2014, the ‘Modi wave’ worked for the BJP. Critics dismiss such a wave now.
In the 2019 polls, we can sense a strong undercurrent in Modiji’s support. This is evident from the manner in which the Congress-NCP candidates were backing out from the polls. Even in my own constituency, the Opposition had a tough time finding a suitable candidate to contest the polls.
Will caste play a factor in the polls?
No. The 2019 Lok Sabha election will be concentrated on the Centre’s good governance. The national agenda will drive the polls. There are several welfare schemes, including Jan Dhan, Ujjwala, PM’s pension plan, Ayushman Bharat, Rs 6000 annual financial help to farmers, that have made people happy.
How has the Pulwama terror attack and alterations in Indo-Pakistan relations thereafter, impacted your politics?
Even in remote villages, people are talking about India’s befitting reply to Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack. There is a sense of pride and joy as people believe India took stern action within a short period of time.