Many people, such as those who come from political families, are groomed for politics. Knowing that they want it as a career, they prepare for it in their formative years. I on the other hand, had just delivered my first baby when I won my first election in 2005. He was five-days old and I was out there campaigning in my constituency. I had also just lost my father. Right at a time when these emotional upheavals were tearing me apart, I registered my first election victory.
I was never really groomed for politics. Although my father had been a Member of Parliament for 25 years, I was never working with him politically. I had always been more inclined towards the social work field, having worked with the Spastics Society of India for nearly four years in the area of policy change. That was the first time I had any connect with the government. The organisation wanted an education policy change that promoted inclusiveness for spastics, and I had to deal with everyone from the human resources development ministry in Delhi to the principal secretary-level officers in states.
When I first became a parliamentarian, I had to understand what my role and responsibilities were. There were many hopes pinned on me because of my father’s work for the constituency I now represented. There was a time when I was really struggling to prove myself. I had to work extremely hard and live up to those expectations. But I could do that only after I learned and studied what was needed. That involved interacting with a lot of people and understanding their issues. I spent my time meeting as many people as I could. Simultaneously, I was becoming aware of my own drawbacks and strengths. Once I fell into the groove of things, being in politics started coming naturally to me.
I had always worked with people back in my NGO days, so as a politician, I just extended that to a larger scale. An NGO has to struggle a lot to get their point across. But when you are part of the government, you have access to a lot more people and resources. That gives you an edge. If you can use your political platform for the right reasons, you can reach out to a lot more people. Even now, I encourage other NGOs and support those who are doing very good work. A lot of NGOs end up addressing areas where even the government may not have reached out yet.
I don’t think i am the kind of person who feels that because I am an MP, I am right all the time. Whenever I have to take a decision, I call the entire team in and explain to them the problem and how I want to tackle it. They are very open with me and frequently correct me and suggest alternative solutions. I have always felt that working collectively with people – including with citizens from various walks of life – and bringing in their ideas and implementing them creates a win-win situation for everyone.