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In UP, a dancer's tryst with political destiny
Santosh K Joy in Shahbad | April 16, 2007 10:01 IST
For Guddi Begum, the Congress candidate from Shahbad in Uttar Pradesh's Rampur district, life has always been synonymous with struggle.
From being a street dancer belonging to a nomadic community to her conversion to Islam to marry a man she loved and her transformation into a political activist who became a district panchayat member, Guddi has always fought against huge odds.
"Lets talk about development and not about my ancestral lineage or past life. My past is something very personal. One needn't bother about it," says Guddi nee Nirmala Devi.
A devout Muslim, she always wears a burqa and never misses her namaz even during her campaign.
Initially, clerics had opposed her candidature, saying Muslim women should not venture into politics.
But she prevailed on them and claims she now has the blessings of all -- elders, ulemas and especially women and children of the constituency.
The Congress fielded Begum, who now belongs to the Pashmantha Muslim sect classified as a Scheduled Caste, with an eye on the 1.25 lakh Muslims in this constituency.
Shahbad is a constituency reserved for SCs and has a total of 2.5 lakh voters.
"It is a golden opportunity to chose a Pashmantha Muslim and help empower the community," says state Congress chief Salman Khursheed. Party MP Rahul Gandhi also campaigned for Guddi, who began her political career as a gram panchayat member in her village Behsudi.
Guddi's husband Shahid Khan, also a Congress worker, says, "From the day I proposed to marry her, the problems we faced were innumerable. She came from a nomadic community. During campaigning, some people even resorted to spreading rumours about her character. But she is resolved to lead the people."
For Seema Grewal, a district Congress committee member, Guddi is a role model for women.
"It is a matter of honour that a lady has stood against corrupt politicians and the mafia," Grewal says, complimenting Guddi.
Housewife Isharat Begum says Guddi has instilled confidence among women in the area - "We now understand that women have more things to do than household work. We appreciate that Guddi maintains both religious practises and her social life."