“Ambition to do something different”
For Sushri Saroj Pandey the last one year has been of rapid strides in her political career. She is Mayor of Durg Municipal Corporation consecutively for the last 10 years – a record in the country. Besides being the Chhattisgarh State BJP general secretary and party spokesperson, she was last year nominated national secretary of the party. Soon afterwards she was elected an MLA from Vaishali Nagar assembly constituency. The next four months saw her another record win-this time for Durg parliamentary constituency where besides the presence of a strong Congress candidate, she defeated the expelled BJP MP in a multi-cornered contest.
Born in a farmer-turned-educationist family, her zeal and spirit to do something in life landed her into politics. She made her debut in politics by winning the election to the office of President, Bhilai College Students Union and, later, of Raipur University Students’ Union. A brilliant student, she is a gold-medallist in MHC. Amba Charan Vashistha spoke to her in New Delhi. Excerpts:
What made you to join politics?
Right from my student life, I had the ambition to do something different-different from the trodden path. During those days, students were required to pay a fee of Rs. 68 per month, which was too much for those coming from ordinary families in the undivided Madhya Pradesh. I raised a voice against it as President of Mahila Mahavidyalaya Bhillai Students’ Union. The then local Congress MLA paid no heed to the students’ demand. But finally I succeeded in getting the fee lowered.
Why did only BJP and no other party fascinate you?
I found BJP different from all others. I thought it was the only party that could appeal to those who had the good of the society and the nation at heart. It wanted to usher in a change. I found it perhaps the only party that is truly nationalist in character.
Did any other party try to make you change your loyalty towards it?
Yes. A lot of pressure was put on me when the Congress ruled the State. Many Mayors then changed their loyalty under pressure and because of fear and threats. But I stood my ground. I resisted all allurements and threats.
Do you think women are in anyway handicapped in politics as compared to men?
Not much. But the difference is that women have to show their worth and have to prove themselves competent for the job.
Are you still functioning as Mayor?
Yes. Under the law I can continue to hold this office.
Would you like to continue as Mayor while being an MP or quit?
I am continuing for the moment. I may continue for some time more. But my ultimate decision will depend upon the wishes of the people and my party.
Your prime achievements as Mayor of Durg?
I have changed the face of Durg. The Municipal Corporation did not experience the extent of development in the last fifty years as it witnessed in 10 years. I raised the Bharat Gaurav Stambh based on the first page of the Constitution of India. I got inscribed the names of freedom fighters. I also developed the Dada-Dadi, Nana-Nani Park, Pay-&-Use toilets, Aero-modelling and Tarmandal, organised many mass wedding ceremonies and introduced many schemes- Shramveer Yojna, Pushpvatika, Gumti Yojna that provided shops to poor with just Rs. 10,000-20,000. I also introduced Swavalamban Yojna, Gyansthali Yojna, Naari Sashaktikaran Yojna, Jhuggi Basti Utthaan Yojna many of which have been adopted by the state government for implementation at the State level. I also undertook massive programme for beautification of the city.
Yes. I got the best Mayor’s Award even when the State had a Congress government.
Any memorable moment?
A Kisan Sammelan was organised in Chhattisgarh where the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Chief Guest. I conducted the programme. Vajpayeeji was very much pleased with the way I conducted the proceedings. He praised me and in appreciation gave me a coconut.
There appears to be a mad rush for getting party nominations for Vidhan Sabha, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and then cut-throat race to be a Minister. Do you think one can only serve the people only by being an MLA, MP or a Minister?
That’s not true. One can serve the people even without being an MP or Minister. Even an ordinary political worker can play a useful role from his post of duty. But the only difference is that when you become an MLA, MP or Minister, your words and views are heard with greater attention and respect. Weightage is given to your opinion. That provides impetus to your plans. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of the powers-that-be for what you wish to do for the people.
You were elected an MLA and within a few months got elected as an MP. What has been your experiences?
I had very little time to function as an MLA. In Lok Sabha too it is virtually the first session I have attended. The earlier one was just a formal introductory one. I am happy to say that during this short period I have been able to make my presence felt in the House. I have put many important questions and raised vital issues. I feel that a public representative should function and behave as a representative of the people, think about them, care about them and do everything possible to address their problems and find a solution.
The both Houses of Parliament are reportedly plagued by reports of thin attendance. What is your impression?
On my part, I have tried to attend the maximum sittings. I have found that listening to others in the House and watch the proceedings is a great experience. One learns a lot.
What is the next?
I would first like to work and show my worth. I wish to come up to the hopes and expectations of the people with which they have elected me. My work and success will pave the way for my next step. My people and my party will decide what is the next for me.