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Soft-spoken 'tai' has tough job at hand in Lok Sabha

June 06, 2014 09:45 IST

Looking at her and talking to her, you could be forgiven for wondering how she will handle such a tough job as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Sumitra Mahajan, 71, seven-time MP from Indore, has already become the first woman parliamentarian in the country to win eight elections in a row from the same constituency. She won the 2014 election by a margin of 4,66,000 votes, defeating Congress candidate Satyanarayan Patel and joined the elite club of longest serving parliamentarians. This, when she won the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by a margin of only 11,000 votes.

Mahajan had made a sensational debut in 1989 by defeating Congress stalwart and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Prakash Chandra Sethi and had secured Indore for the Bharatiya Janata Party for the first time.

Before defeating Sethi, Mahajan had lost an assembly election in 1985 by a narrow margin. Since then, Mahajan tightened her grip over the constituency and converted Indore into a BJP citadel. In the 2013 assembly elections, the BJP won seven of eight assembly segments under Indore parliamentary seat.

In the eight elections she has contested, Mahajan has always won with a margin of over 1,00,000 votes, except once. Satyanarayan Patel, who had posed a tough challenge in 2009 and had brought down her victory margin, this time lost by a huge margin despite being selected through the US-style primaries promoted by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

Mahajan has had her share of rivals in the party. Kailash Vijayavargiya (known as bhai) and Mahajan (called tai, meaning elder sister in Marathi) were unforgiving rivals in the same area and the conflict between tai and bhai dogged the BJP for 16 years, especially after her one-time guide and senior BJP leader, the late Rajendra Dharkar turned against her. Dharkar was opposed to Mahajan’s promotion of her son, Mandar, also in politics.

But Mahajan did not let that stop her. Keen to become Union human resource development minister, she was made Union minister of state for HRD under Murli Manohar Joshi. She remained Union minister of state in three different ministries from 1999 to 2003, as revolts grew against her in the state BJP.

Fair-complexioned and soft-spoken, Mahajan, a law graduate, has had more women followers who looked up to her as someone who could redress their grievances, be it sexual harassment, domestic violence or career-related issues. In the Lok Sabha, Mahajan is likely to run a tight ship.

Image: Sumitra Mahajan will be elected as Lok Sabha Speaker on Friday

Aditi Phadnis in New Delhi
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