For residents of Goregaon’s ward number 37, the name Jayshree Deshmukh has diverse associations.
At a public meeting held for the 38-year-old domestic help-turned-activist, contesting as an independent candidate, she has managed to attract a sizeable 50 supporters. Some are here because she helped them get ration cards, others because she helped them deal with abusive husbands.
Working as a domestic help till she got married, Deshmukh, the general secretary of the Mumbai Workers Front, has been an activist for seven years. “We’ve seen Jayshreetai fiercely fight corrupt officials for your rights and even forcibly enter their cabins. If you vote for her, you’ll see a similar fight for your rights as well,” said one of the speakers at the meet.
Despite the firebrand description, when Deshmukh takes the stage, she’s unassuming and reticent.
“I don’t know how to deliver a speech, nor can I sweet-talk. But I know how to work for you, elected or not,” she said.
Living in a rented 10X20 foot shanty, Deshmukh has had to fight the odds to contest alongside local heavyweights from the Shiv Sena and the Congress. However, it’s not just political ambitions that motivate her. Last year, she lost her oldest son in an accident. “She was depressed for a while, but managed to overcome it, partly due to the polls”, said her husband, Dinkar, 51, an autorickshaw driver.
While the election commission keeps track of candidates who extend the Rs. 5 lakh expenditure limit for campaigns, for Deshmukh, that figure is a distant dream. “We haven’t been able to take permission for our public meetings and rallies, because even that would require us to shell out money.”