CRISP white salwar-kameez and tricolour dupatta in place, this one-time journalist now described as "housewife and mother of four" is nothing more than a blur of Action shoes as she rushes from door to door, reminding the electorate of Farrukhabad, from where she's contesting for the Lok Sabha: "I'm here to serve you." Wife of upcc chief Salman Khursheed, who himself has won the "traditional family seat" precisely once, Louise is obviously loath to let just anybody replace her better half. Especially as Salman may need all the help he can get from Farrukhabad if he's to get elected to the UP assembly and aspire for the CM's post in the near future.
For the moment, 'Louise Madam' is going full throttle canvassing for votes in this North Indian backwater. "Little did I know I'd land here when I married Salman in '84", she says. Politics "repelled" her in her younger days, but there are no regrets now. Naturally. "I guess it was my father's (a senior bureaucrat) influence then, but Salman's had the last word," says she. Devoted wife she may be, but Louise is thrilled that her being a journalist is helping her. "I must say all the local scribes simply love me," says she enthusiastically. Others counter that nobody had even heard of her till her name came up on the Congress list. To which UP Congress spokesman Kush Bhargava says: "Louise bhabhi has always been there, close behind Salman bhai, especially from the time he was made upcc president." "She has been doing all the homeworkÑand legworkÑfor Salman when he has been kept busy. Who says she is inexperienced?" asks Farid Chuktai, a close aide of the family. Local Congress workers are duly impressed with her "zeal for work. Madam wakes up at 6.30 am and sleeps only in the wee hours of the night", says Farrukhabad District Mahila Congress president, Indira Pandey.
"There are times when I really miss my children. Then I pick up the phone and have a brief chat," says Louise. The sacrifice, after all, is for a good cause. Her husband's.
Naina Balsawar, wife of Akbar 'Dumpy' Ahmed and the BSP candidate from Nainital
SHE may have been Miss India in '76, but it's being the wife of Akbar 'Dumpy' Ahmed, rising star of the bsp, that's standing her in good stead. Nominated as bsp candidate from the Nainital parliamentary constituency, she's pitted against Congress veteran N.D. Tiwari and the SP's Muzaffar Ali. Unfazed, Naina's been telling people she's their bhabhi (by virtue of Dumpy being their bhaiyya). Her adversaries consider the connection tenuous and paint her as an "outsider". Naina, originally from Karnataka, rebuts these allegations, saying: "I've been running the Corbett Riverside resort in the area for more than a decade now; and have done my bit for Nainital by employing locals." Politics, she insists, isn't new to her; she's campaigned with her husband in Azamgarh from where he was elected to the Lok Sabha. It has nothing to do with her husband, she says. "People went to Mayawatiji asking her to nominate me from Nainital. That's why I'm here."
Parneet Kaur, wife of Capt Amarinder Singh and the Congress candidate from Patiala
MARRIED to Capt Amarinder Singh, scion of the Patiala royal family and also president of the Punjab Congress Committee, Parneet Kaur is going to the people as Congress candidate for the Patiala Lok Sabha seat. Like other wives in the poll '99 fray, she's a "seasoned campaigner" who's done so for her husband and her mother-in-law Mohinder Kaur. A recipient of the President's Red Cross medal for social service, Parneet herself is no pushover, but her husband, much like Khursheed in UP, seems to have developed chief ministerial ambitions. For which reason the Maharani Sahiba has stepped in to safeguard the "family seat". So what if she finds it tedious to parrot the same election speech over and over again; she's clear that her royal lineage hasn't hindered "contact with the masses" and that being with the hoi polloi is "part of her life now". Presumably, the Maharaja is equally pleased.
Hemawati Gomango, wife of Giridhar Gomango and Congress candidate from Koraput, Orissa
She's confident of stepping comfortably into her CM husband's shoes in his home constituency of Koraput. For Gomango, an eight-time winner from the seat, his wife's victory is a "prestige issue". Should he lead the Congress to defeat in the forthcoming assembly elections, her selection would come in handy to retain the family seat. Which is why there was hectic lobbying to get Hema a ticket.
Hema, 30, who, a la Rabri Devi, has stepped straight from home and hearth insists that being a "family woman" doesn't make her a stranger to politics. Grand-daughter of a village headman, she has been "closely associated" with her husband's "political activities" since the age of 18 when she married him. In fact, shuttling between Koraput, Delhi and lately, Bhubaneswar, Hema has been her husband's campaign manager for the last 20 years. And that's qualification enough when your husband is the CM.
Asha Gawli, wife of Arun Gawli and candidate from Alandi
"SHE's your sister and she's come to see you"; "Even though her feet are hurting, she has travelled for your sake." These are some of the slogans that precede the arrival of Asha Gawli, wife of underworld don Arun Gawli and one of the candidates standing for the assembly elections from Alandi, Pune. Heavily bejewelled and with a 22-day-old baby in her arms, Asha's busy chanting the virtues of her husband who's contesting from the Khed Lok Sabha constituency, of which Alandi is an assembly segment. The overlap is deliberate so that Asha can give voice to her husband's campaign. A role she's familiar with since she has over the years, along with the Dagdi chawl women brigade, screeched down police stations, court rooms and Dagdi chawl each time her husband was arrested.
Asha or tai as she's now referred to, has no issues to highlight; it's all in aid of her husband. As is evident in the villages of Amboli, Shirol and Khed, where Arun Gawli's cutouts outshine Asha in the smaller posters. "It doesn't matter whether we win or lose," she says. "Whether we're elected or not, we'll continue to work for the people." And that means both she and her husband.
Sudha Rai, wife of late Kalpnath Rai and Congress nominee from Ghosi, UP
This secondary school teacher may have an abiding interest in UP politics and a PhD in political science, but it's as Kalpnath Rai's widow that she's in the fray. Following her husband's sudden death, Sudha was the Congress' "natural choice" to replace him. And she's "proud" that she's been entrusted with the task of carrying on the good work. Her only point of grouse is her eldest stepson Siddharth, against whom she's contesting. The son, an nda candidate who's been given a jd(u) ticket, is going door to door insisting he's the true inheritor of his father's political legacy. To which there are no vicious statements or clumsy attempts to discredit her opponent, a "high-school drop-out". Only a tug at the emotional heartstrings: "I forgive him; after all, I am his mother."Also, it's all in the family.
D.K. Aruna, wife of Bharathsimha Reddy and the Congress candidate from Gadwal, Andhra Pradesh
She's the daughter of a well-known politicianÑJanata Party veteran C. Narsi ReddyÑbut that doesn't really count. What does is the fact that she's married to D.K. Bharathsimha Reddy, high-profile liquor baron and recent entrant to the post-Pachmarhi, "clean" Congress. It's only natural then for 39-year-old D.K. Aruna, devoted housewife, to enter the poll fray as Congress candidate from the Gadwal assembly constituency in Mehboobnagar, Andhra Pradesh.
Her husband, in fact, had successfully contested the '94 election from the constituency as an Independent only to join the Telegu Desam later. Vexed with present-day politics, Bharathsimha Reddy, whose name figured in the "list of bootleggers" compiled by an assembly committee last year, accuses present-day politicians of being hypocrites. "Unlike them, we businessmen frankly admit we're no saints," he says when questioned about the appropriateness of getting a political novice like his wife to fill in for him. "At least I had the courage to admit my involvement in the liquor trade during prohibition in the state on the floor of the House, unlike a majority of tdp legislators, including the CM's brother Ramamurthy Naidu, who stuck to stout denial."
But 'honesty' doesn't pay in politics, the husband-wife duo lament. And, says Bharathsimha, quite obviously the spokesperson for the Reddys, "political life has certain limitations". And the only way to get around them, is to field your wife instead!
In the write-up on Hemawati Gomango (Hits & Mrs, September 20), she’s reported to be 30 and is said to have campaigned for her husband for the last 20 years whom she’d married 12 years ago. Wonder how?
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