Introducing Kiran Verma, ex BSP, now BJP’s newest calling card

Dalit.

Woman.

Not the usual two descriptors that come to mind in the popular imagination of a politician, or even a prospective one.

And why is that, you sometimes wonder. (If you’ve just landed on planet earth from a lifetime of orbiting in outer space, that is).

But let’s step back and bite the rhetoric. Why not?

The one thing that’s never been associated with either of those identities is the one thing that everybody hungers for – Power.

And so it is that when you see a Dalit woman inching close to it, it is as if everything around her is energized – somehow the aeons spent in deliberate oppression of entire communities and races in a systemic manner, come together in that one figure and moment. It hits you and everyone around witnessing the phenomenon: The birth of the powerful other.

Trailing Kiran Verma, the Dalit woman with solid chances of a ticket from the BJP in Banda this U.P. election season, is therefore a whirlwind proposition: having chased her for months, we’re thrilled to be finally tagging along with her on her daily rounds of jan sampark. She sits down with the people and their problems, offering advice, help, promises, and her car for transport when she comes across someone helpless and immobile, struggling with schedules, between the women’s meet at the BJP office and her field campaign.

Drawn to the thrills and perils of a public life from a young age, Kiran started off her journey in rajneeti with the Bahujan Samaaj Party, which was the popular choice for a candidate from the margins, especially a woman, but was soon wooed and won over by the BJP. She has many firsts to her name and was the first Dalit woman to become a legislator and hold the post of the District Panchayat President. She’s now all set to become the first Dalit woman MLA from Banda.

It’s no joke to be playing the UP political field as a Dalit woman, so many structures does it set a-squirming. Sure enough, when she was the Zila Panchayat president, ward members in Banda from both Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj Party got together to move a no-confidence motion against her. Details are unclear – usually the case when petty politics are at play – but the long and short of it is that Kiran Verma parted ways with the BSP.
Now, as the BJP is wooing potential Dalit candidates all over UP, Kiran Verma fits their bill in more ways than one. A Dalit woman who’s been ousted by the BSP and holds many grudges against the party, is good arsenal in a field where the BJP is castigated for not being friendly to those on the margins of power. Subsequently, Kiran’s local-issue-focused campaigning is peppered with praise for Prime Minister Modi: she talks about the PM as a great administrator with his policies like demonetisation benefitting all across the country.
Kiran’s husband, Rajkaran Verma, is an IPS officer working in Lucknow and she cites him as her pillar of strength and motivator in her public life, “I officially entered in 2010 inspired by him. He had started off dreaming about a life in politics actually but then switched to IPS and became an officer. So, in a way, he motivated me to take that dream forward, urged me to follow through on my own…” the district elections were around the corner and Kiran decided to take the plunge – it was a hectic 7 days of field work, she recalls, and she was chosen the president.

There hasn’t been any looking back since.

Briskly charting the galis and bylanes of Naraini town in Banda district with Kiran, chatting with people and telling them about her plans once she’s on the inside, we talk women’s empowerment. “I think women should be everywhere, be it governance, politics, or all kinds of professions. There must be encouragement for them on all levels, and especially from society.That’s what I’ve always done and will always continue to do – women’s rights are crucial to me, and should be for the society at large… And you can already see it, women are coming up everywhere. Can’t you?”

Kiran makes sure to speak about all the big issues that are on the radar – employment and irrigation being the top areas of concern that she brings into her jan sampark rounds and speaks about whenever there’s an opportunity.

She’s certain about an 80% improvement in these prime anxiety zones for the people, terming it her duty as a “jan sevika”. And she pegs her chances at a BJP ticket from Naraini at 100%, no less. She nods, calmly confident, and tells us of continuing to work as an activist for the people regardless. Her eyes and heart are set on the “lal batti mantri” target of course, and there’s more anticipation in the when and how than the if.

On the days we spend accompanying her, we return home exhausted, thirsty and hungry, and only just realize that Kiran did not take even a second’s break through the day – and that she’s out again, another day unfolding.

But then, who said being a Dalit woman in power was going to be easy?

Watch our other profiles of women in the UP Election 2017.