August 01, 2020
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Classroom Wars: Educating Sita

AAP leader and former advisor to Delhi Deputy CM, Atishi is aware of the challenges faced by women in politics.

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Classroom Wars: Educating Sita
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Classroom Wars: Educating Sita

It’s 10 pm and Atishi is in a strategy meeting at her one-room campaign office in Lakshmi Nagar. Sitting on the floor, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lea­der, preparing to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from the East Delhi constituency, briefs volunteers. She is one of the three women in a room packed with men. AAP has been doing politics on the grassroots level from day one, she tells Outlook afterwards, and her electoral strategy will be the same: “Work on the ground, reach out to the people. Because we’re in government, we now have to show our work. People do realise the fundamental transformation made in health and education.”

Born to two Delhi University professors, Atishi studied history at St. Stephen’s College, securing the top rank across the university when she graduated in 2001, before obtaining a Master’s degree from Oxford University. She was involved in social activism for many years afterwards: “I had been living and working in a village in Madhya Pradesh from 2006 to 2012. But I realised things were not changing. This was when the India Against Corruption movement began. We saw a lot of new people out in the streets demanding change. That was exciting—I felt this movement could be a force for good.” As an advisor to the AAP government, she is now credited with transforming Delhi’s public education.

Favourite politician? Arvind Kejriwal. Favourite woman politician? She needs to think about it. Role model? She laughs and names Harry Potter, for the “fight of good versus evil.”

While fighting for ­women’s empowerment, Atishi considers herself privileged. “The background I come from, the education, the opportunities I had, make me far more privileged than many other ­women.” And she’s aware of the challenges faced by women in politics: “Women, like any marginalised group, struggle to be properly represented in electoral politics; so, we want reservations for women in electoral politics.” Women’s safety is central to her manifesto. “In a city like Delhi, the safety and security of women is a burning question. It is almost as basic as education. If women can’t travel without fear, they don’t have equality of opportunity.”

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