Singing for victory: Ramya Haridas– the second Dalit woman parliamentarian from Kerala

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By Najiya O,

She sang and danced, entered people’s hearts and finally won.  Ramya Haridas became the second Dalit woman from Kerala to win a seat in the Parliament, and with a good margin.  The 33-year old, fondly called the ‘little sister of Alathur’ has won over the hearts and votes of the constituency for a great margin of more than 1.58 lakh votes, defeating the sitting MP Dr PK Biju in the LDF stronghold.

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When announced as the Congress candidate of southern Alathur, most had predicted the failure of Kozhikode-girl Ramya in the LDF bastion.  But people began to throng her election rallies, which brimmed with positive campaigning without any sort of maligning the opponents.  Ramya used her singing ability well in her campaigns, which was well-received in some quarters but brought the ire of some critics too.  (  Two main controversies that came up during her campaign are understood to have ultimately turned in Ramya’s favour.  Activist Deepa Nishant criticized Ramya for singing at the election campaigns, saying ‘the real issue should not be candidate’s singing, dancing talent or religion. It is not an Idea Star Singer or temple committee selection.’  Ramya reportedly responded that ‘I will sing and speak.  These are my weapons.  I ignore such criticisms.’   LDF Convenor A Vijayaraghavan made sexist remarks at her for visiting Muslim League leaders for blessings, which also turned as negative for the Left.  Considering the poor background of Ramya, her supporters used crowd-funding to finance her election campaign, and used the social media extensively.  There was also a stone-pelting attack on her in which Ramya was reportedly injured.  The endearing way in which Ramya approached the voters gained her a good support.

The Scheduled Castes’ reserved constituency of Alathur was formed in 2009, and Dr PK Biju of the CPI(M) won in the two Parliament elections held since in 2009 and 2014.  He was in the fray this time for a hat-trick victory but fell before the first-timer Ramya Haridas.  Biju had secured 46.84% votes in 2009 and 44.34% votes in 2014, with a clear margin over his opponents.  However, he could get only 36.8% votes in 2019 whereas Ramya bagged 52.4%.

Born to daily wage earner Haridas and Radha in the village of Kunnamangalam in Kozhikode district, Ramya Haridas grew up experiencing the difficulties of life.  She studied in the local government schools, and got to fame when she began to win prizes at the arts festivals in folk dance and songs etc.  Her mother being a local leader of the Mahila Congress, Ramya joined the KSU at the age of 13 and entered public life.  She has served the party in several positions ever since in the Youth Congress and other associated organisations etc.  She also worked with well-known Gandhian PV Rajagopal and his Ekta Parishad in different parts of the country.  She received the Nehru Yuva Kendra Award for public work in the Kozhikode district in 2007.  Ramya rose to prominence when she performed well in the talent hunt organized by Rahul Gandhi in 2011.  The young woman spoke at the national conference of the Youth Congress the next year. She was also made the secretary of the Youth Congress Kozhikode Parliament constituency. She is also one of the coordinators of the National Youth Congress.

Ramya entered the foray of electoral politics in the local self-government elections in 2015.  Winning in the first instance itself from the Poovattuparamb division, she became the Kunnamangalam Block Panchayat President at the age of 29.  Then came the Parliament elections and her candidature.  Ramya resigned as Panchayat President soon after the election was held in Kerala on April 23, announcing she was of the people of Alathur now.

The victory of Ramya Haridas is seen not only as that of the Congress and UDF but as that of Dalit women too, as she is the first in the category to enter the Parliament after Bhargavi Thankappan of the CPI who won from Adoor in 1971.