The Maharashtra elections signal a turn of tide for the state’s political environment, but the polls have also brought forth some heartening stories. Take the instance of the Pune Municipal Corporation elections, in which a number of leaders have emerged from among common people. Rajashree Kale, who won from the city’s panel number 7 B, is a woman who has beaten many challenges to reach so far.
Rajashree is a single mother and college peon, and the first corporator from her community—the Phase Pardhi tribe of Maharashtra.
Pune Municipal Corporation. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Hailing from Solapur, Rajashree studied at a community school in Yamgarwadi but had to stop at class 9. She has been working for her community’s development since the age of 15. “I never thought I will contest an election. Our community is very backward and we have never even had a sarpanch from the community,” she told the Times of India.
She arrived in Pune in 2004 after marriage. However, her husband left her after the birth of their two daughters, and she has raised the girls on her own. She works as a college peon in Pune’s Garware College — a job that has sustained her family for the past eight years.
Muktaja Mathkari, the college principal, told TOI, “Rajashree has always had social awareness and is deeply connected with self-help groups. She had sought permission to contest the elections and we agreed. She is regarded highly among the women of the locality. The 50% reservation made it possible. We will cooperate with her and look forward to her work. We also hope she is successful with a better understanding of social reality.”
The Phase Pardi tribe lives predominantly in Mahrashtra and Madhya Pradesh. They were branded as criminal tribes by the infamous British Act of 1871. Though they were reinstated as nomadic tribes in 1952 by the Indian government, public perception had led to stigmatisation and widespread poverty.
Rajashree fought the elections as a BJP candidate and hopes to use her new position to carve a path of progress for her community.