The women who want to change Pune

Her electoral symbol is a lady’s purse. Her campaign slogan, My Family, My India. If you ask her what that is about, she will tell you it is about family. About making India safe for families.

It is the rising crime graph that made 33-year-old Rupali Nivruti Tamboli, a commerce graduate and a mother of two, think of contesting the Pune election.

“With increasing rape cases in India, I fear for my children,” says the first-time candidate, who lives in Wadgav Khurd, a locality 37 km from Pune central. “I want to make India safer  for my family and all other families.”

Contesting the Maval seat, Tamboli is one of the three women candidates who will enter the political fray when Pune — the cultural centre of Maharashtra and one-time capital of the Maratha empire – goes to the polls tomorrow in the fifth phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Anil Shirole of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Viswajeet Kadam of the Congress, Deepak Paigude of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, and Subhash Ware of the Aam Aadmi Party may be the known faces, but Tamboli, Sushma Pandurang Gaikwad, and Chhaya Tukaram Bansode are the ones who make empowering women their primary focus.

Every issue faced by citizens must be addressed at the family level, Tambolis says, as this is the smallest unit of the country. She believes an individual can make a difference without joining a party.

“I don’t like the idea of contesting with a party, because everyone has their own goals,” she says.

Like Tamboli, Bansode, a 43-year-old homemaker, is an independent. She contested the Pune Municipal Corporation election in 2012, and has been associated with the NGO ’Jivan Vikas Shikshan Sanstha’. This touch of social work got her to think about the daily struggle of women.

“My aim is to empower women and get them justice,” she says.

Bansode had several discussions with her husband on issues affecting the nation. As power plays a crucial role in finding solutions to these, it seemed logical that she should stand for election. So, with her husband’s encouragement, Bansode entered the fray from the Wadgaonsheri constituency.

With no political organisation to back them, independents like Bansode and Tamboli  often have little scope to promise the public anything. But Bansode seems unfazed.

“A candidate with no political support works fearlessly and raises issues on his own,” she says. Her electoral symbol is the pressure cooker. Underlining the significance of the symbol, she says, “A pressure cooker helps women and works instantly in the kitchen. Being a homemaker, I understand the feelings of women and the tough times they go through. I will work the same way the cooker works and gives a helping hand to women.”

Sushma Pandurang Gaikwad, a 48-year-old social worker, is the third woman candidate in the city. She contests Shivaji Nagar.

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