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Now, Delhi's lone woman auto driver steers a political path

25-yr-old Sunita, who braves Delhi's roads, will contest Mehrauli assembly seat as a JKNPP nominee.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2003 11:28 IST

Delhi's first and only woman auto-rickshaw driver is used to charting new territory and is getting ready to do it again by taking on political heavyweights in the upcoming elections here.

Sunita Chaudhry, the 25-year-old who braves Delhi's notoriously unsafe roads day in and day out, will rely on her rustic charm and local knowledge while battling both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

She will be contesting the Mehrauli assembly seat in south Delhi as a nominee of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party.

Sunita is used to fighting the odds - and winning them. After all, the feisty young woman has had long years of practice in beating the odds. She has been constantly fighting since she was married off at the age of 13.

Even at that age, she knew that it wasn't the life for her. She bided her time and came to the Indian capital some years ago after running away from her in-laws' home in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

Her parents, who live near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, still don't know that she drives an auto-rickshaw for a living or that she is contesting elections.

But then here is a woman who has always lived - and worked - on her own terms.

Sunita said she had expressed her desire to fight assembly polls and was willing to join any party that approached her first.

"Panthers Party came to me first and I was ready to join them," she said frankly.

Unfazed by the challenge that faces her, Sunita exuded confidence and said: "I know my area inside out."

Sunita is aware that defeating the BJP and Congress, both old-time Delhi parties that have a lot of clout and deep pockets, is not easy.

"The BJP and Congress candidates are like two elephants who have money to back them but at times an ant is enough to trouble and trounce an elephant.

"I have been involved in social service for the last 12 years and in helping other women and weak people," Sunita told IANS.

Amongst the issues Sunita plans to take up in the area, where she stays, are water shortage and lack of civic amenities like poor health services.

She said she would work to get a standby ambulance for emergency cases in every assembly segment.

Sunita was a trained gymnast and yoga instructor before becoming an auto-rickshaw driver.

"I had to run around the licensing authorities for two years before I got a commercial license for driving," she recalled.

"I had to threaten them with (a court case) before they relented," she added.

Party officials are hoping to cash in on exactly this resilience and this image of a hard-working single woman.

"We have honoured the working class and women by giving her (Sunita) a ticket," said Panthers Party Delhi chief Sanjay Sachdeva.

"She is a symbol that the progressive thinking people would want to vote for."

Any takers, anyone?

First Published: Nov 19, 2003 11:28 IST