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Techie, journalist, engineer among Delhi’s new ministers

These six will take oath as new Delhi ministers along with Arvind Kejriwal.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2013 11:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

These six will take oath as new Delhi ministers along with Arvind Kejriwal.

Saurabh Bharadwaj, 34 Techie activist
Saurabh Bharadwaj represents young professionals - the class of society which played a pivotal role in the stunning electoral success of the Aam Aadmi Party.

In 2011, 34-year-old Saurabh was among thousands of youngsters who responded to the clarion call made by Anna Hazare for a corruption-free polity and the demand for setting up a Lokpal.

Till then Saurabh, a software engineer with a firm in Gurgaon, had never thought of taking the plunge. “It had become a trend among the youngsters to attend such social campaigns and I used to tag along with my colleagues,” said Saurabh, AAP MLA from the Greater Kailash Assembly constituency.

It was during one such meeting that Saurabh registered his phone number with the AAP volunteers. In October 2012, he got a invite to attend a meeting at Nehru Park to discuss the proposal to float a political party. “There were barely 40-50 people,” said Saurabh.

A B Tech in software technology from Computer Science And Engineering from Bharti Vidhyapeeth College of Engineering under the IP University, Saurabh graduated in law from Osmania University during his seven year stay in Hyderabad where he was hunting for a job.

Vijay Bharadwaj, his uncle who is also a lawyer, said: “He (Saurabh) played an active role in helping child victims of sexual abuse and disaster-affected families in getting compensation.”

After AAP decided to contest elections in Delhi, Saurabh’s name was in the first list of the 11 candidates announced by the party as well as those shortlisted for a ministerial role.

His neighbours said that even when he was not a politician, Saurabh used to help them.

Now set to don the role of a minister, Saurabh said: “The problem with our system is that people treat ministers like heavenly beings. Our aim to end this culture.”

(With inputs from Soumya Pillai)

Girish Soni, 49 Destiny’s child
One of the two Dalit faces in the Kejriwal cabinet, Girish Soni was born in a poor family that was sustained by a small business that his father Babulal Soni ran.

At the tender age of four, Soni lost his mother. “I was closest to my father,” said Soni.

“He was the biggest influence in my life and helped shape my mental framework and outlook towards life,” he said.

Soni was enrolled into a government school in Madipur where he completed his primary schooling and higher secondary education. However, owing to financial problems, Soni was unable to pursue a graduation. Instead, he opted for a diploma course in air-conditioning and refrigeration from the Industrial Training Institute(ITI) Pusa in Delhi, which he completed in the year 1982.

Soni says his interest in social work was one of several things the he imbibed from his father. “I regard it(social work) as my hobby”, he said.

“When I was a kid, I used to watch my father actively participating in the affairs of our neighbourhood. In 1981, I got two policemen in our area suspended for deliberately fracturing a person’s leg during a scuffle. Since then there’s been no looking back,” said Soni.

But doubling as a businessman and social worker meant very little time remained to spend with family and friends, although his wife Mamta had no qualms about it. “The day I stepped foot in this house, I knew that he is a busy man,” she said.

“But I have no complaints since whatever he is doing is for the greater good of society as well as his family and he will continue to receive my unconditional support,” she said.

Regarding Soni’s new role as an MLA and a soon to be minister, his children are very proud of their father. “It’s a thing of sheer joy for us. We are very proud of him,” said Parul, his eldest daughter.

(With inputs from Raunak Dey)

Rakhi Birla, 26 Young and restless
All set to become the youngest minister in Delhi, Rakhi Birla, 26, claimed the revolutionary spirit runs in her blood.

Rakhi’s father, Bhupendra Singh Bidhlan was an active Congress worker for many years in Mangolpuri — the same constituency from where Rakhi humbled the Congress giant Rajkumar Chauhan.

Rakhi’s interest in joining politics was triggered in 2011, when she was covering the anti-corruption movement by Anna Hazare as a young journalist.

Rakhi’s father works with his sons in a small family-run business, her mother is a sweeper in a government school where she studied till class XII.

Rakhi graduated from Delhi University’s Shivaji College and did her Masters in journalism from an institute affiliated to Hisar University.

“Rakhi’s father left the Congress due to the corruption in the party. I am happy at Rakhi’s win but I would be happier when she would will fulfill the promises made to the masses,” said her mother, Sheila Bidhlan.

Born in a Dalit family, Rakhi never allowed her caste to become a hurdle in achieving her goals. She wants to change the mindset of people and erase the caste divide.

Krishna Dhillon, Rakhi’s neighbour said, “Since her childhood, she has been very dedicated to her studies. She did not have many friends here, but she had always been friendly with all the people, specially the elderly.”

Asked about her plans for Saturday, the day she would be sworn-in as a minister by the Lieutenant Governor, she said: “What are my plans likely to be? Just like an aam aadmi, I will take the Metro to and fro Ramlila Maidan, where the oath taking ceremony will be held.”

(With inputs from Ishita Bhatia)

Somnath Bharti, 39 Legal campaigner
As a social activist, Somnath Bharti would always be on the forefront to take up people’s issues with the government through various means, including filing public interest litigations.

During the hearing on one of his PILs, the judge told Bharti that some of the changes can only be brought in by the legislature. Bharti decided to become the part of the system to bring in the change from within. “But the popular political parties had nothing substantial to offer to the middle class and the poor citizens of the country,” said Bharti, an IIT Delhi graduate, who also earned a law degree from Delhi University.

Desperate to bring in a positive change, Bharti became one of the founder members of Aam Aadmi Party.

The 39-year-old, who defeated Congress’s Kiran Walia and BJP’s Arti Mehra from Malviya Nagar seat, lives with his financial consultant wife, two children and his mother.

Asked about the scepticism regarding the promises made by AAP, Bharti said the party has a strategy cut-out to fulfill the promises made to the people of Delhi. “The ministers will be working simultaneously. We are going by the party strategy so that all the points in the manifesto are dealt with,” said a confident Bharti.

Gulshan Singh, the security guard outside Bharti’s law firm, Bharti and Associates, said a lot of people used to visit Bharti for help even before he was elected an MLA. “He makes t a point to meet everyone who comes in and later in the day also goes around meeting people and solving their problems,” the guard said.

Kuldeep Singh, 65, owner of a shop in the Begampur village was waiting outside his office at Malviya Nagar. “Even after winning the election, he has not forgotten us. I am here to take his advice on my inflated electricity bill. He has assured me to take care of it.”

(With inputs from Soumya Pillai)

Manish Sisodia, 41 Engineer of a new polity
If not for the neighbours eager to point out the house, it is hard to find Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia’s (41) flat turned office in the congested lanes of east Delhi’s Pandav Nagar.

But as you skirt the neighbourhood children playing badminton outside the ‘builder’ flat and reach its third floor, it is evident that the house belongs to one of Arvind Kejriwal’s oldest associates and the second most popular face of AAP.

The three bedroom flat is full of AAP members and frenzied activity. There are people everywhere — in the bedrooms, lobby, drawing room and even the kitchen. Everyone, however, talk in a hushed tone with Sisodia giving interviews to score of television journalists, while his wife Seema (40) flits between the rooms to ensure everything runs smoothly.

The couple had an arranged marriage in 1998 and has a 10-year-old son, Meer. “I had got married to a mechanical engineer and had never thought he would enter politics,” says Seema, while attending congratulatory calls from relatives.

There are no regrets though. “He always wanted to do something for the country and now all of us are feeling very happy,” she said. Sisodia, who has studied mechanical engineering at Jammu, later earned a diploma in journalism and has been a television journalist. Son of retired school principal, Sisodia’s family hails from Pilakhua, Uttar Pradesh. Sisodia has always been interested in social work but his life changed after joining Kejriwal’s Parivartan campaign. “He has always been a workaholic but now he is busier than ever,” Seema said. “He hasn’t changed as a person though.”

Sisodia’s neighbours too are enjoying the reflected glory. “It feels great to be a Minister’s neighbour!” said Vikash Sharma, who lives in the same building. “The pitfall is that score of people keep going in an out of the building and parking cars has become a problem but then, that is life.”

(With inputs from Sidhartha Roy)

Satyendra Kumar Jain, 49 Architect of change
When her husband decided to join politics and contest election, Poonam Jain did not support the idea.

But just a few days before election, her husband Satyendra Kumar Jain — now the AAP MLA from Shakurbasti — was allegedly attacked by some people in the Rohini courts complex.

“That is when I decided to back my husband fully. When an honest person like him can be attacked in presence of police officials, then anything could happen. And this has to stop somewhere,” said Poonam.

Now vindicated in her decision, Poonam said that the Capital’s bad record on women safety also made her support her husband’s plunge into politics.

All set to take oath as minister in Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet, Jain lives in a joint family in Saraswati Vihar, where his father, a retired teacher, moved soon after his birth from his hometown Kirthal in Baghpat, UP.

“I keep going to my village often as I want to remain attached to my roots. I still work in my fields,” said Satyendra, an architect by profession.

Like may others, Jain had been associated with Kejriwal from the days of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption agitation.

“My day starts at 6:30 in the morning, as that’s the best time to meet people who come early morning in the park to jog. Soon after the elections got over, I went from door-to-door to thank people for their support just as I did for seeking their support before polling,” said Jain.

Shiv Dayal, Jain’s driver for the past four years, said: “He is a very down to earth person. He still picks me up from my house, rather than calling me to his home to save time,” he said.

Asked about his future plans, Jain said: “I have joined politics to change the system. Not to change myself.”

(With inputs from Ishita Bhatia)

First Published: Dec 28, 2013 00:45 IST