Saba Khan, 29, wanted to join the police force when she was in her teens and studying at a school run by AMU in Aligarh. However, early marriage meant that her ambitions had to be recalibrated. She started working for an NGO that ran campaigns against the practice of dowry, domestic violence, and other social ills. Interaction with the public trained her for another job that she would take up later: political party worker and campaigner.
“Ek pehchan mili hai Saba Khan zila sachiv ki (I have earned an identity. People know me as Saba Khan, district secretary),” says the woman who holds the position in minority women’s wing of Samajwadi Party. Her five-year old son, the younger of her two kids, jumps and tries to clutch his mother’s red cap, denoting her party leanings. She often takes him along when she goes to campaign for the party that she joined a year ago.
Her party, however, is not fielding a candidate from the Aligarh Lok Sabha seat. In the seat-sharing arrangement between the SP and the BSP, the Aligarh seat went to the latter, with Ajit Baliyan being the candidate. In the team of five SP workers who are whipping up support for the BSP candidate in Muslim-dominated areas of Jamalpur and Jeevangarh, Saba is the only woman. She gets up at 7 am every day and after a few hours of domestic work goes out on her political errands.
“There is a simple rule. If people are listening to you, it means they are supporting you. And people are listening to us,” says Saba. “This [BJP] government has pushed the youth back by several years. Akhilesh bhaiyya’s government brought so many welfare schemes. He gave scholarships to girls, pensions to widows and the elderly. And our party does not lie; it does not govern on the basis of lies.”
In these fevered days before the polls, Saba usually works till 10 pm. She pays a quick visit home if her son needs her attention. Her husband, a supervisor in a courier firm, is also associated with the SP, and Saba testifies to his staunch support throughout. “And I have been lucky that I got this opportunity. Not everybody gets a chance to rise and earn a name,” she adds. The last few months have been very hectic for her. A horror show buff, Saba hasn’t been able to watch any lately. Asked about her political ambitions, she says she only wants to do as much as she can for the party.