News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » Meet The Youngest Dalit Lady Candidate

Meet The Youngest Dalit Lady Candidate

April 24, 2024 09:24 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

'If people don't see you, they might be hesitant, but once they see you, they are confident that this is the person they will vote for,' says political debutant Shambhavi Choudhury, 25, alumnus of the Lady Sriram College and the Delhi School of Economics.

IMAGE: Shambhavi Choudhary with children during campaigning for the Lok Sabha election. Photograph: Kind courtesy Team Shambhavi Choudhury

"Hi, how are you?" says Shambhavi Choudhury over the phone in between campaign stops while on the road in Samastipur.

"I am slightly exhausted, but very enthusiastic," continues the 25 year old who has been campaigning in Samastipur as a candidate for the Lok Jan Shakti Ram Vilas party.

Samastipur is a reserved scheduled caste seat. The seat was won by the Lok Jan Shakti in a by-poll in 2019 by Prince Raj after the death of his father, a sitting MP.

Prince Raj was subsequently suspended from the party by his cousin and party leader Chirag Paswan whose father Ram Vilas Pawan was a nine-time MP and founder of the Lok Jan Shakti.

Shambhavi is the youngest candidate so far in the fray in this election. "I am the youngest Dalit female candidate to contest," she says.

A third generation political entrant, her father Ashok Choudhury is a Janata Dal-United minister in Bihar; her grandfather Mahavir Choudhury was a minister in the Congress government in the state.

Her husband Saayan's father is former IPS officer and scholar-philanthropist Acharya Kishore Kunal who ushered the revolutionary act of appointing Dalit priests in several temples in Bihar.

In conversation with's Archana Masih, Shambhavi Choudhury speaks about her political debut, why she joined a different party from her father and how she got the ticket from party leader Chirag Paswan who she calls "Chirag bhaiya."


What has been your experience since you started campaigning?

I have been spending 14-15 hours in the field. We have a plan which we try to follow. There are six Vidhan Sabha seats, 16 blocks and 280 panchayats.

We target one block per day and pick out the most influential panchayat and go there.

The party workers take us to meet the people on the ground.

We will do this till the last day of the campaign. Our aim is to reach as many people as we can.

Most of the time in a Lok Sabha election, candidates target party workers and make them the medium of communication, but we are directly communicating with the people in the villages.

If people don't see you, they might be hesitant, but once they see you, they are confident that this is the person they will vote for.

I am the youngest Dalit female candidate to be fielded.

Did you always want to join politics since you are from a political family?

I was always interested and wanted to join politics because I have seen my father and grandfather working in their constituencies.

I grew up having the same dream. It was very natural because 90% of the time you get influenced by the family you grow up in.

It is not easy getting a ticket. How did you get selected?

I always imagined I would have a political life and do what my father and grandfather have done, but I could never imagine that I could get a break this soon.

We have a personal relationship with LJP President Mr Chirag Paswan. My husband has been friends with him for the last 3-4 years. We used to meet in Delhi. He is like a guardian, big brother.

Once the elections were announced, I expressed my desire of entering politics and if there was something he could do. He asked where do you want to contest from? I said Samastipur since I am a Dalit and have to contest from a reserved constituency.

My husband comes from the same district and my father-in-law has worked in the temple there.

IMAGE: Shambhavi Choudhary at the nomination meeting in Samastipur attended by Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) President Chirag Paswan and other leaders. Photograph: ANI Photo

Though the JD-U and your party are part of the NDA, the two parties have not been on the best of terms in the past.
Considering your father is close to Nitish Kumar and a JD-U minister, did your joining the LJP not cause any discomfort?

No, no. It has been my independent decision of contesting from the Lok Jan Shakti Party Ram Vilas.

As a young person I resonate with somebody who is from the same generation. It is natural that you connect with someone who is from your own age bracket and that is why I connected with Chirag bhaiya.

I appreciate his way of working. In the last few years he has proved himself as a leader because there was a split in the party and he rose up from that. His idea of Bihar first, Bihari first, putting youth and women first has had a profound impact on me.

He has given two out of five seats being contested by our party to women which is about 40% -- higher than the 33% reservation for women that honourable Prime Minister Modi has said women will receive. But Chirag bhaiya has gone way beyond that.

Moreover, 4/5 seats are being contested by candidates below the age of 35-40. Nobody in Bihar politics has done this kind of politics or has this kind of trust in young people.

Many politicians go on camera and say we want to work for the youth and women, but don't actually put them in the place of representation. Chirag bhaiya does that.

What has Nitish Kumar said to you about your candidature?

He is very happy. Since my father is in the JD-U and close to the CM, I met him before and after I got the ticket. The day before my ticket was announced and before leaving for Samastipur, I went and took his blessings because he has always been there for my family.

He is encouraging. My father is also campaigning for me.

The NDA is our family and we are fighting for our national goal. It is a fight against an ideology.

Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD is also a young leader. Have you had a chance to meet him?

Not personally. Maybe at social gatherings where I have accompanied my father.

He has not given opportunities to young people and is working with seasoned politicians. He is not thinking beyond the box. As a young person, it is very important for leaders to think beyond the box.

IMAGE: Shambhavi Choudhary campaigns in her first election. Photograph: Kind courtesy Team Shambhavi Choudhury

How different is your politics going to be from what exists today?

I want to work for women and young people. I have been here for 15 days and realised that unemployment and population control is a huge problem.

I am educated and come from a background where I had the opportunity to understand policy. If one has to develop policy you have to first understand the population first.

I want to work for employment, connectivity and industry.

In Bihar, mostly people vote on the basis of caste, but I want to deviate from that and work for the underprivileged.

I don't want to do caste politics and work for the people who have not been able to come in the mainstream.

I am a Dalit woman. I am a representation of a Dalit woman. I have had the privilege, but most people from the same social strata might not have the privilege of doing what I am doing.

I want to represent them strongly and voice their concerns first.

What are the concerns of people, especially Dalit women that they have shared with you?

The big problem is poverty which is essentially because of social hierarchy. I am a sociology student and the way society has been structured has had an impact on the economic opportunities of people.

Once you go out and see the difference between a forward and backward village -- both are poor, but there is a difference in the understanding of sanitation, education, rights etc.

But poverty is everywhere. Once you tackle the poverty issue, things will get better.

IMAGE: Shambhavi Choudhary seeks blessings during the campaign. Photograph: Kind courtesy Team Shambhavi Choudhury

But your coalition has been in power for 10 years at the Centre, don't people question you about unemployment?

90% of the people are happy and satisfied because they have got houses, cylinders, electricity -- 10 years back there was nothing.

The unemployment in my constituency is because there is lack of industry. There is even seasonal unemployment. Once there is good connectivity, then companies may start coming in and that's how things improve.

How do you think you will fare in this election?

I am very confident that I will win.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024