She’s known for her “manly” style and hot temper in Haidergarh block of District Barabanki. And of course, her supremely addictive self-confidence. Her name is Rani Kanojia and she’s a well-known figure on the political scene in Barabanki. Rani owns a petrol pump in Dadupur village eight kilometres from Haidergarh, and she likes to use terms such as “absolute majority” when discussing votes and elections.
She started off a career in the public arena in 1994 when she won the election for the village panchayat and in 2000, she campaigned for over a week to win the district panchayat elections as well. In 2001, she won the post of the block chief but was forced to leave the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2003 after a vote of no-confidence against her. Despite that, Rani continued to remain in the public eye and positioned herself in the activist-worker mould, as someone whose sole interest lies in the betterment of the people. “Anyway, BSP wanted to use me like a rubber stamp of sorts. And I’m not interested in being a stamp, I refuse to be just that.”
It’s this take-no-prisoners stance of hers that got her the votes more than the male candidates and led her to be identified as a feminist.
She came to Haidergarh in 1989, she tells us when she got married and got involved in women’s problems and issues just by virtue of being herself. Rani recalls, “When I moved here, I remember there were very few women, or rather none at all, who would step out of the house for work. And when they did or had to, they would cover their heads with a white cloth.” Rani would urge women to not take things lying down and even approached the district officer to discuss problems – an episode she remembers only too well. “When I went to his house, this man – his name was Sarvesh Kumar – put his hand on my shoulders while talking to me. I asked him to remove it immediately, but he had the audacity to say that he actually wanted to put much more. I was infuriated and I slapped him right there and then!”
The officer had Rani put in jail, where she stayed for 28 days, but it did not break her. If anything, “I was more energised to continue working in this vein”, she says. She knew she’d done something right.
Rani is currently in the Bhartiya Janta Party and refers to herself as “Modi’s soldier”. She’s looking forward to being asked to be part of the upcoming 2017 elections.
Nasreen and Fiza/Khabar Lahariya