Jugal R. Purohit | Headlines Today | Narayanpur(Bastar), April 5, 2014 |

In the region which qualifies as being among the most volatile in the country, she walks comfortably with a ragtag group of volunteers. Though there is tension in the air as the sun sets, the elaborate security, available to her- ‘Z’ and ‘Z+’ category, competitors, especially following last May’s bloodbath involving the Congress party leadership in Chhattisgarh, are missing.
Fighting to represent the Bastar parliamentary constituency in the 16th Lok Sabha on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket, Soni Sori, the 39-year-old teacher from Dantewada, who only recently secured a hard-fought bail from the Supreme Court, admitted she still wondered how life changed so much for her.

“Four years ago, I was a daughter, a wife and a teacher. Today, I am a widow, an alleged Maoist supporter and am also fighting this election,” said Sori, sipping tea at the end of her campaigning for the day. Having been accused of supporting Maoist insurgents, Sori was nabbed in October 2011 for being a ‘conduit’ in alleged payoffs by the Essar Group for the Maoists in Dantewada.

Entering people’s homes, Sori tries connecting using Hindi, Gondi or Halbi, depending on what may work. Walking through a village where the roads were concretised, electricity and water supply were not much of a bother, when asked what should would she do for the seemingly content people, she said: “I am their daughter and I represent hope.”

Things, however, aren’t as simple. In a unique move, Sori has drafted her ‘manifesto’ on a Rs.1,000 stamp paper which runs into five pages and has 51 points on which she would work, if elected.

She explained, “The reason why I did this is the negative feedback people gave me. Many even abused me for being just like another politician and seeking their votes.” In that declaration she “empowered her electors” to “recall” her if her performance faltered.

Even though her name as the AAP candidate was doing the rounds for a considerable amount of time, her ground campaign, a largely disorganised effort, has begun only a few days ago.

Interestingly, there were not as many local volunteers as those from Mumbai, Assam and Delhi. There was some friction between the members of the local AAP unit, said an insider.

On being asked about her suggestion towards ending violence in the region, she said, “When I was in jail, I saw there were many like me, caught just because they chose neutrality. That was not fair. I began writing and finally the movement grew. Before tackling the Maoists, the intentions of the government need to be above board. When I was incarcerated and the Sukma collector was abducted, negotiations took place, committees were formed and a list of people was drawn up who were to be released in lieu of the collector. The Maoists did let go of the collector but what did the government do? It did not do what it was to do. Tell me who should I hold responsible? If there is trust, violence will come down.”

As she prepared to reach out to voters, spread over six districts in the Bastar region, Sori seemed aware of the odds against her.

“It does not matter whether I win or lose. I am always going to be involved with these people,” she said.

When asked if AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal had advised her, Sori smirked and said, “Had it not been for Kejriwalji, I would have gone back into the shadows. He has, by offering me a platform, given hope to Bastar. If someone like me can, they too can.”

Soni’s Promises

Cops to get special allowance in Maoist-hit areas along with residential quarters and ten days of leave per month

‘Bastar Allowance’ for all civilian govt staff

Tribals languishing in the jail will be provided with legal help and efforts will be made to get them out

Recruit more personnel in the jail department so that prisoners get better treatment

Focus on every home to make it financially independent

Bus service to look after remote interior locations

De-addiction centre in all villages

Toll free number to inform about pending governmental works

People won’t need to travel to govt offices

Within one year, roads, water condition and air pollution will be tackled

All local problems to be sorted out in local gram panchayats in 24hrs

Rs.10 lakh interest free loan to farmers from the government

Schools will have no vacancies unfulfilled

Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/soni-sori-maoist-aam-aadmi-party-2014-lok-sabha-polls-dantewada/1/353053.html