Kusum Sherwal (44), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) candidate from Ambala (reserved) Lok Sabha seat, is the new face of the Haryana woman — well-educated, confident and enterprising.
Born in a humble family of a railways clerk working at Jagadhari (Yamunanagar), Kusum got married soon after matriculation. She did her graduation and masters in Hindi through a correspondence course from Panjab University, Chandigarh, while bringing up her son and daughter. Eventually, she did PhD in Hindi from Kurukshetra University. Her topic was Guru Ravidass, on whom she penned a book later.
She did not stop here. She remained active in the cadre of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and worked with then BSP supremo Kanshi Ram along with her husband Ashok Sherwal, who was then the Haryana party unit president. He runs a real-estate business, while she is a housewife.
The BSP candidate from the Mullana seat in the 2000 assembly polls, she had finished third. Her husband had contested the election on the BSP ticket in 1996 from the same seat, but he too lost. The Sherwals joined the INLD in 2002.
“Maine kabhi socha hi nahin tha ke ek din mein politics mein hoyungi (I had never even thought that I would be in politics one day),” she says nostalgically.
She recalls how she studied with her three sisters and a brother in a government school located near the railways workshop at Jagadhari, and getting married immediately after she passed out of school.
“Bas shaadi ke baad Ashokji ne encourage kiya, aur meine aage ki padhai phir shuru kar di, mere bachche bhi padhate, mein bhi unke saath baith kar apni padhai karti,” she says, describing how her husband encouraged her to continue her studies and how she used to study along with her children.
Things again took a dramatic turn for her when she saw her husband work for the BSP and herself got actively associated with the party cadre.
“Mujhe logon ki, gharib logon ki samasyayon ka pata hai. Mein khud un samasyayon se ladhi hoon,” she says, emphasising that she is well aware of the problems of the poor as she has herself overcome the same.
She hopes that the women of Haryana, especially the rural ones, become more aware of the need for their participation in all avenues. “Gaon mein aur hamare samaaj mein toh ladakiyon aur auraton ke liye bahut kaam karna baki hai (there is a lot that needs to be done for girls and women in villages and also in the Dalit community),” she adds.