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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Sumitra Mahajan: The politician who couldn't become the CM

Padma Shastri, Hindustan Times  Indore, June 04, 2014
First Published: 20:58 IST(4/6/2014) | Last Updated: 12:05 IST(6/6/2014)

"I want to see her as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh one day," advocate late Jayant Waman Mahajan had told this reporter soon after his wife Sumitra Mahajan defeated Congress candidate Madhukar Verma in 1996 Lok Sabha elections.

BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan,72, who created history last month by becoming the country's first woman parliamentarian to have won eight times in row from the same Lok Sabha constituency, however, could not become chief minister.
 
It was expected given the fact that she lacked the fire needed to climb the ladder to the throne.
 
Instead, she relied on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backing, her proximity to former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to contest one after another general election from 1989.
 
Balancing home and a political career was like tightrope walking as one wrong step could have damaged home and dignity, an essential characteristic Indian society wanted to see in a married woman and a mother, specially in relatively small city like Indore.
 
The fact that she started her political career after her marriage in 1965 made her tread with caution as she faced initial resistance from in-laws. Before she was first elected as MP in 1989, she had lost assembly elections from Indore assembly constituency thrice.
 
Though it jolted her from within, it made her determined.  
 
The first Lok Sabha election she contested in 1989 proved historic. Mahajan, who was 46-year old then, defeated senior Congress leader Prakashchand Sethi by a margin over 1 lakh votes. She didn't look back since then.
 
Fair-complexioned and soft spoken, Mahajan, a law graduate, has had more women followers who looked upto her as someone who could redress their grievances be it sexual harassment, domestic violence or career-related issues.
 
Over the years, she came to be called as Tai, a Marathi word for elder sister.
 
But as she cultivated her image as another Ahilya Bai Holkar, the 18th century ruler in Malwa known for good governance, the number of Mahajan's critics grew within BJP.
 
State urban administration and development minister Kailash Vijayvargiya, also from Indore, emerged as her strongest rival and critic besides fiery saffron leader Uma Bharti.
 
As the conflict between Tai and Bhai (Vijayvargiya) intensified in last 16 years, her one-time guide and senior BJP leader late Rajendra Dharkar turned against her. Dharkar opposed when Mahajan pitched for her son's candidature in municipal elections.
 
"She should remember that whatever she is, it is because of Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP has made her what she is," Dharkar had remarked while siding with Vijayvargiya.
 
Sumitra Mahajan survived as she learned to swallow the bitter pills with grace. Keen to become union human resource development minister, she was made union minister of state for HRD under Murli Manohar Joshi.
 
She remained union minister of state in three different ministries from 1999 to 2003 as revolts grew against her in state BJP.
 
Her support base had begun to ebb by 2009 but she managed to win the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by a margin of about 11,000 votes.
 
But the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was a different story. Mahajan and Vijayvargiya made peace in view of the Modi wave. Shining in the NaMo light, Mahajan won the polls by a margin of 4.66 lakh votes, the highest in Madhya Pradesh. 
 
Now the Lok Sabha speaker, Mahajan may have reached the pinnacle of a glorious career.


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