The now-famous face of have-nots and Rahul Gandhi’s poster woman, Kalawati Bandurkar, who resolutely announced her decision to jump into the Assembly poll ring, today stands “confused” and “pressurised by the farmers’ groups in the region.
The 52-year-old farm widow finally filed her nomination from Wani Assembly constituency in Yavatmal district on Friday on a low note.
She was admitted to the Pandharkawda Civil Hospital after she complained chest pain on Thursday evening. She traveled to the Returning officer office at Wani, some 50 kms from Pandharkawda, in an ambulance.
"She is under considerable mental stress. That is why we admitted her to hospital," Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, the farmers’ group that was instrumental for her nomination. She has filed her papers as an independent. The final decision on whether to let her contest the election would be made by Kalawati's family, considering her health complaints.
After Rahul’s reference to her in his debate in Parliament, Kalawati was again in the news last week when she announced her decision to contest the elections against the ruling Congress-NCP coalition to highlight the plights of farmers and farm widows in the region. She had said that being the candidate of Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) candidate, she would also campaign for the “third front” in the elections.
Her husband Parashuram, a debt-ridden farmer, had committed suicide in Jalka village, leaving her to feed nine mouths and repay Rs 1 lakh loan. But it was this tragedy which brought Rahul Gandhi calling at her doorstep and making an impassioned speech referring to her in the Parliament.
Help rushed to her doorstep and it was enough to repay her loan, marry off one daughter and start construction of a four room house. “But the condition of other farm widows remains same in the region. And to highlights the plight of those poor widows and agrarian crisis, I have decided to contest,” says Kalawati.
However, her decision to contest the elections was not taken in the right spirit by Sulabh International chief Bindeshwari Pathak that had provided her Rs 6 lakh so far and proposed to pay her a sum of Rs 24 lakh. Pathak suggested that she use social work and not politics to highlight the plight of farmers. He also hinted that if she firmed about her decision, the NGO may stop the further financial help.
However, finally, she was persuaded by the Samiti to file the nomination on Friday. “I am not well. But I filed the nomination because of peoples’ aspiration and hope that I should contest the ensuing elections,” a reluctant and frail Kalawati said.
Tiwari said that the farm widow may retreat and hence the organization filed nomination of another woman from Wani--Baby Chhattarsingh Bais (45)--and a farm widow from the district as an alternative. “If Kalawati withdraws, Baby will be the candidate of Swantantra Bharat Party, a poll-partner of RLDF”, he informs.
Meanwhile, 12 more farmers have ended their lives in Vidardbha region in last 72 hours. Among them, nine were from Yavatmal district of Kalawati. With the toll of these deaths, the figure has touched to 55 this month while it was 48 last month.