The BJP candidate from Balha, the 38-year-old Savitri Bai Phule, could have easily passed off for the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati except for the shoulder-length hair and the regulation saffron gear.
Even the tenor of her speech is reminiscent of Mayawati. "I renounced my family
at a very young age to serve the samaj. Why would I amass wealth when I don't have a family?" an impassioned Phule tells a spell-bound audience in Bahraich district.
Savitri Bai Phule campaigns in her constituency. HT Photo
The rest of the speech recalls her "heroic struggle". Phule's parents married her off at the age of six. When she was a teenager she went to Lucknow to participate in a demonstration, got embroiled in a lathi charge and ended up in jail. "On return I told my in-laws I wanted to dedicate myself to the service of society. Since the marriage was yet to be solemnised, I broke the alliance," says Phule, as the villagers applaud.
Today Phule runs an NGO that fights for women's rights. With a total asset of Rs. 2 lakh, which is a donation from the party, Phule is amongst the poorest candidates in the state. She has been a zila panchayat member thrice and lost Charda seat by 1000 votes in 2007.
Says Sobhit Yadav, a villager, "She can win hands down except that she is a pasi and not of Mayawati's caste."