Rekha Rani’s luck changed in as little time as she took to fry a burger. In fact, she was actually frying a burger when she got a phone call from her dad, asking her to return home. “He told me he had decided that I would be contesting the sarpanch election,” Rekha says.
Two weeks later, the 21-year-old, who was happy taking orders at Burger King in Chandigarh’s glitzy Elante mall, became the first-ever chaudhrain of Haryana’s Chapla Mori village, about 20km from Fatehabad city. She will now command and decide matters for around 2,000 people.
In election results declared on Sunday, Rekha was shown to have won against her rival, Nirmal Rani, by 220 votes. But for the Class 12 student, who is also called Sunita at home, becoming the village sarpanch was something she had never thought of. In fact, she was not even qualified to contest when the polls were first announced, as she was below the minimum age of 21. But then, luck had it and the revised date of the panchayat polls fell just after Rekha’s 21st birthday.
Moreover, this was the first time that Chapla Mori was contesting independently. Earlier three villages in the area comprised one panchayat.
“Baat hazam to nahi hui (I couldn’t digest the fact that I would be contesting),” Rekha says, “but even then I came home to contest.” Rekha’s father Bansi Lal, a farm labourer, is equally amazed. “I don’t even know how to express my happiness. But yes I am proud that I am the village sarpanch’s father,” he says.
Bansi Lal says he remembers how, at a village meeting, the villagers told him that his daughter will be next sarpanch as the seat was reserved for women. “I stood with close hands and accepted the decision,” he says.