iconimg Friday, September 04, 2015

Pawan Sharma, Hindustan Times
Kumarsain, October 29, 2012
"Himachal ki shaan," scream women Congress supporters, dressed in traditional pahari outfits such as rezta and dhattu. And the crowd roars "zindabad", adding to the campaign fervour whipped up by bronze trumpets and drums. Thus emerges the "pride of Himachal", Vidya Stokes, to address voters in the extremely tough terrain of Kawada panchayat after a steep climb on Sunday.

The 84-year-old leader's stamina floors the rural folk. The seven-time legislator steers clear of clichés, relying instead on her personal connect with the voters, many of whom she knows by first names. 

"Maine apne naam kaa thappa kabhi nahin lagaya," she says, telling voters she is the only MLA who never displays her name on foundation stones or inaugural plaques.

"But these BJP leaders are shameless, so much so that they claim credit for work done by others."

The meeting over, an elderly woman cautions Stokes not to slip while walking down. Stokes smiles, thanks her and dashes down the uneven path.

"We must reach Bharedi on time," Stokes directs Atma Ram, who manages her engagements.

If the Congress comes to power, will she be in the race to become the chief minister?

"I am never bothered about this. I want mental peace, which I derive from my work and my people," she replies, pushing forward on a punishing schedule for the November 4 elections.