Surprisingly, though she is the Delhi state unit secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), 23-year-old Niharika Sharma disdains a career in politics. The ABVP is the BJP’s student wing and has been the launching pad for politicians like Arun Jaitley. However, Niharika is quite clear in her mind that she does not want to join mainstream politics unlike many of her predecessors in the ABVP. This despite her having been a very active member of the ABVP for the past six years and having contested several elections.
Dyed in the RSS tradition, she, instead, wants to do something constructive for samaj (society). And she aims to achieve this objective through a teaching career in the university. No graduating to the BJP for her as she has long-term plans to continue in the ABVP while working as a college lecturer.
"Our job in the ABVP is to guide students. Teachers can do this task quite well,” says this earnest young lady who is currently pursuing a Ph.d. on empowerment of Indian women in the age of globalisation.
Niharika comes from a middle-class family of Sahibabad in neighbouring Ghaziabad, which has a very old association with the RSS. She has been educated throughout in schools run by the Sangh-affiliated Vidya Bharati. Unsurprisingly, therefore, when she joined Delhi University’s Vivekanand College in 2000 for a B.A. (Hons.) in political science, she became a member of the ABVP.
During her first year itself, Niharika contested her college’s students’ union elections to become the treasurer, while in her second year she became the union vice-president. In the final year she was fielded by the ABVP for the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) general secretary’s post, which she lost to Ragini Nayak of the Congress-backed National Students Union of India (NSUI).
When she took up an MA in political science, though, she was made a member of the ABVP national executive.
Although disillusioned by the political culture of the day, which she feels is marked by corruption and self-serving interests, Niharika says the BJP is her ideal of a political party, which can take the country “to the pinnacle of glory because it is closest to Sangh ideology”.
But she refuses to name any role model in politics, not even BJP leaders such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. “I do not have any particular role model among political leaders. But I like certain qualities in certain leaders — like Vajpayee’s talent for poetry, Sushma Swaraj’s oratorical skills and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s rustic humour,” she explains.
And she has no hesitation in stating that she admires Congress President Sonia Gandhi as a “very strong woman”, something that few followers of the Sangh Parivar would publicly admit.
And what does the ABVP activist do in her leisure time? She likes to watch Hindi films with her family (Rang De Basanti, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Swadesh and Veer Zaara are some recent favourites) and read works of literature in Hindi and English.
Does she freak out at New Year’s Eve parties like the other youngsters in the university? No question of that, she says sternly, pointing out in true Sangh Parivar tradition, “We observe New Year according to the Hindu calendar, as per the Vikrami Samvat.”
Instead, she attends the ABVP’s get-together for families on the Hindu New Year and other such functions of the saffron parivar.
What about other cultures and communities, though, they have a right to their traditions? Or a Hindu’s right to be open-minded and participatory in the glorious mix-and-match individual choice that is every citizen’s cultural right? “Things like New Year’s celebrations or Valentine’s Day are all western influences. At a time when people in the West are imbibing our culture, why should we rush to copy their customs?” she asks.
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