Parliament panel proposes simultaneous polls to LS, Assemblies

Business Standard, December 31, 2015

Sumitra Mahajan, seven-time MP from Indore, has already become the first woman parliamentarian in the country to win eight elections in a row from the same constituency. But she is now also the only speaker in the history of Indian Parliament to have expunged her own remarks.

Although the last two Rajya Sabha sessions have been washouts, the Lok Sabha has worked late into the night to complete more business than scheduled. For this, Mahajan surely deserves some credit. She has also mooted the sticky issue of more real estate – a bigger, better Parliament building for India. If she manages to get acceptability for this idea during her tenure, she will be remembered in history.

Mahajan belongs to the Konkan district in Maharashtra and was married into an Indore family. She rose in politics, largely on the back of municipal politics and has an illustrious history locally. She won the 2014 election by a margin of 466,000 votes, defeating Congress candidate Satyanarayan Patel and joined the elite club of longest serving parliamentarians. This, when she had won the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by a margin of only 11,000 votes.

Mahajan had made a sensational debut in 1989 by defeating Congress stalwart and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Prakash Chandra Sethi, and had secured Indore for the Bharatiya Janata Party for the first time.

Before defeating Sethi, Mahajan had lost an assembly election in 1985 by a narrow margin. After that defeat, she tightened her grip over the constituency and converted Indore into a BJP citadel. In the 2013 assembly elections, BJP won seven of eight assembly segments under the Indore parliamentary seat.

In the eight elections she has contested, Mahajan has always won with a margin of over 100,000 votes, except once. Patel, who had posed a tough challenge in 2009 and had brought down her victory margin, this time lost by a huge margin despite being selected through the US-style primaries promoted by Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.

Mahajan has had her share of rivals in the party. Kailash Vijayavargiya (known as “bhai”) and Mahajan (called “tai”, meaning elder sister in Marathi) were unforgiving rivals and the conflict between “tai” and “bhai” dogged the BJP for 16 years, especially after her one-time guide and senior BJP leader, the late Rajendra Dharkar, turned against her. Dharkar was opposed to Mahajan’s promotion of her son, Mandar, in politics. Mandar, a pilot and chief flight instructor at the Madhya Pradesh Flying Club, appears to be a politician on the fringes. The most recent controversy about him was his nomination to the MP State Wildlife Advisory Board. His sponsors were the state transport minister and the chief conservator of forests, Indore. “I have a passion for wildlife but I work silently and keep to myself what I do. I don’t make a show of it. Even if I have not done much, I can prove what I am capable of doing once I get this assignment,” he told local reporters. Mahajan’s grand-daughter’s wish to meet Priyanka Gandhi was recently granted as Mahajan was reportedly invited to tea by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Keen to become Union human resource development minister, she was made Union minister of state for HRD under Murli Manohar Joshi. She remained Union minister of state in three different ministries from 1999 to 2003.

Mahajan, a law graduate, has had women followers who have looked up to her as someone who could redress their grievances, be it sexual harassment, domestic violence or career-related issues.

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