An actor who made it to Hollywood, a 21-year-old graduate from Daulat Ram College, India’s first woman ambulance driver, an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, a Paralympics athlete. What’s common between them? That they have all taken the political plunge in the Delhi municipal elections armed with Swaraj India tickets.
Swaraj India -- a political party formed by Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan after their expulsion from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) -- debuts this Delhi municipal corporation elections and fielded candidates from a diverse spectrum. And 60% of them are first-timers.
With an average age of 39 and three candidates who are all of 18 years, Swaraj India says “winnability” for it means bringing people from different backgrounds who have worked towards bringing about a positive change in society.
Hindustan Times takes a look at some of these candidates.
Actor who has rubbed shoulders with SRK, Akhshay
From performing in theatres in Kurukshetra to working in Hollywood movies such as Desires of the Heart and Mission to recently wrapping up the shoots of Hindi film Toilet Ek Prem Katha along with actor Akshay Kumar, politics was never in the mind of Subha Sharma, 52.
At the age of 18, she got her first break in a short film named Soni Mahiwal for Doordarshan. After that she performed in many plays. Her big break came later in 2009 when she shot for the Hollywood movie Desires of the Heart’, in which she played the protagonist’s mother. Another Hollywood project, Mission, is yet to be released. During this time, she did some advertisements, including one with Shah Rukh Khan for a DTH service.
In 2011, when she was looking for more Hollywood assignments, something happened that not just changed the direction of the country’s politics but Sharma’s life too.
Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare had staged an agitation at Jantar Mantar demanding the passage ofthe Lokpal bill in Parliament. Sharma joined the movement as a volunteer and was actively involved in the campaigning but disassociated herself with it after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal resigned after forming the government in his first term.
“Though I was never an AAP volunteer, whatever sympathy I had for him I lost after he resigned as CM during his first tenure,” said Swaraj India’s candidate from the Mayur Vihar ward.
She believes her experiences with acting will help her to become a better politician. “During research for a play, I got to know that there are increasing incidents of children being sodomised or sexually assaulted by drug peddlers outside schools that go unreported. If I am chosen as a councillor, I will ensure all wine shops in my ward are closed,” she said.
Her vision for the municipal election is ensuring that enrolment rate increases in schools and cleanliness in maintained in her ward.
First woman ambulance driver
Twinkle Kalia’s parents wanted to gift a car to her groom during her marriage. Her husband Himanshu Kalia, however, advised them to give an ambulance instead so that he can serve poor people free of cost.
Kalia, 35, who is contesting on a Swaraj ticket from Pratap Nagar, started driving the ambulance on days when the driver was absent but soon took it as a full-time responsibility and has been doing it for the past 14 years.
She now owns eight ambulances that are available for free for people in the area. “Helping people made me content and politics is just a continuation of that,” she said.
Her vision include sewer lines in all the colonies, and clean water and 24-hour facilities at dispensaries.
“People in my family have suffered from jaundice because of dirty water. But nothing has been done in the last so many years. So I decided to contest the elections this year,” she said.
Kalia said she had been Anna Hazare’s supporter and an AAP voter earlier but in past three years nothing has been done on three fronts by the AAP government — cleanliness, traffic jams and bringing transparency in the system.
Youngest candidate in the corporation polls
With her roots in Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, like most of the other candidates of Swaraj India, Kajal entered politics when she was just 17— a year less than the voting age.
Kajal Sharma, 21, might be the youngest candidate in the fray but looking at the way she is campaigning in the Rani Bagh ward, she sounds matured -- at least in terms of knowing the problems of the area.
“Traffic problems, cleanliness, dog menace, availability of drinking water, especially in nearby slums areas, are the basic issues. I am not promising policy changes because it is not in the purview of the corporation but if I can solve these problems, I will consider my job done,” she said.
What prompted her to join politics when many of her age had still not finished college?
“I grew up at a time when the country saw two biggest movements and I was actively involved in them. The Anna Hzare movement against corruption in 2011 and the movement for strict laws against sexual offences after December 16 gang rape,” said the candidate from Rani Bagh.
Since then, there was a belief that things could be changed if people are united and politics is one way to unite people against the evils of society, she said.
Sharma has become well-known in her area because of her natural instinct in mobilizing people for a cause and knocking the doors of senior politicians to get it addressed.
A paralympian desperate for change
Campaigning in the congested lanes of Balbirnagar on a wheelchair, Suvarna Raj, 34, attracts the curiosity of people around.
An international para-athlete, Raj suffered from polio at the age of two but that did not stop her from doing what she wants.
“Look at the heaps of garbage here. The local councillor has not done anything,” she said showing a photo to people while campaigning.
“I might face hardship in commuting but these things will never be a constraint in managing my ward. I will ensure a swach dilli (clean Delhi) for my people,” she said.
Raj said she had no plans to enter politics till Yogendra Yadav visited her house one day after knowing of her achievements. “After some deliberation, I thought this is an opportunity to change the country’s politics rather than keep blaming the system for not performing,” said the party’s Badarpur candidate.
People in the locality know her for her sporting achievements, which include two medals in the Thailand Para Table Tennis Open in 2013 and another medal at the Asian Table Tennis Regional Championship.
“She has already proved herself in the sporting arena. We are sure she will do well in politics,” said Bharvesh Rao, a resident of the area.