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'Raised in a Poor Dalit Family, Married at 18': MP Sanjana Jatav Tells Her Story

On 'Badi Badi Baatein', Bharatpur MP Sanjana Jatav narrates her struggles before winning the 2024 general elections.

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Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

"I was married in 2016. When my son was 1-2 years old, I had still not finished my graduation. My husband insisted that I pursue an LLB after graduation and study further. I told him that I wanted to study and do good things in life," said Sanjana Jatav, the 26-year-old Congress MP from Rajasthan's Bharatpur whose video of dancing in joy along with her supporters went viral on social media after the Lok Sabha election results were declared on 4 June.

The happiness was Jatav was multi-fold, as she had not only defeated a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, but had also lost the Assembly elections in Rajasthan held in October last year by merely 400 votes.

"Merely 15-20 days after the Assembly election defeat, I also lost my father to a heart attack. That took a toll on me as well because my father was only in his sixties. But my mother and my husband always stood by me and supported me immensely," Jatav said.

Narrating how the family's financial situation was not conducive to contest an election, Jatav, a Dalit said: "The BJP government used a lot of money and muscle power during the election. But the mandate of the people is so strong that it can make anybody rise to power and humble the powerful."

On 25 June, Jatav was awestruck and pround as she took oath as an MP from Bharatpur in the Lok Sabha.

On 'Badi Badi Baatein', Jatav narrates her struggles growing up in a poor Dalit family, her resolution to finish her education, how her and her family fought all odds to contest two elections, and what she thinks she can do for Bharatpur.
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Your video has gone viral on social media after winning the elections...

I was happy I won the election, and that created an atmosphere of joy among the people.

How did you join politics and where did your journey begin?

I was born and brought up in the Vidhan Sabha constituency called Bhusawar. I got married in 2016 in Samoochi village in Kathumar Vidhan Sabha constituency. Merely 2-3 years after my wedding, I contested for the Zila Parishad elections there. My family supported me. My father-in-law is a contractor at PW (Public Works Department), and my uncle has served as a Sarpanch. So, this is how my political career began. 

The seat was reserved for women, so my husband and family insisted that I should contest for Zila Parishad elections.

Was there a specific event or day when you realised that you wanted to enter politics? 

I was never interested in this initially. It was only because of my family’s support and their insistence for me to contest for the women’s seat that I came into politics.

You were married at a very young age when your education was not completed. How did you complete your education, and how did your family support you in your academic journey?

I was married in 2016. After 2016, I finished my graduation from Bhusawar with my husband’s support. I pursued LLB post that. The most significant support in my academic journey has always been my husband’s. 

Were you always interested in studying?

Yes, absolutely. My husband asked me if I wanted to study and I told him I did. When my children were born, I looked after them and my family while I completed my education. 

Do your children know you are an MP?

Yes, they know. My children asked people to vote for me during the election campaign. They don’t know what an MP is exactly, all they knew was that their mother was contesting an election. 

What was your family’s reaction when the party announced your candidature?

There was joy in the family. I come from a simple family, very humble. My father used to drive a tractor, and I come from a background which had no political affiliations of any kind. My father got me married to my husband who is a policeman. It is because of their love and blessings that I have the opportunity to be on this platform today.

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The society you come from has suffered a lot over the years. Have you ever experienced discrimination for being a Dalit when you felt you were not being treated equally in society?

In the community I come from, one has to fight for one’s rights. I am here because of the party, that elevated someone like me from the Dalit community to this platform. It is a matter of pride for me. 

Have there been any instances in your childhood when your father or other family members faced discrimination?

My family is educated but no one works in the service sector, so we didn’t face any discrimination there. But I want to thank the party and party leaders again that they brought a woman from the Dalit community forward like this. 

How did you start working with Priyanka Gandhi?

I met Priyanka ma’am when I came here to ask for a Vidhan Sabha ticket. Priyanka ma’am is my inspiration. Being able to work with her is a big deal for me because no one from my background even gets a chance to meet her. I worked hard and met her, and that’s how I started working with her.

How did you feel when you lost the assembly election by merely 400 votes?

Because I worked hard, I felt quite dejected when I lost. We are not financially strong enough to have contested the elections again. I was very disappointed. But the people didn’t see me as a loser.

Merely 15-20 days after the election defeat, I also lost my father to a heart attack. That took a toll on me as well because my father was only in his sixties. But my mother and my husband always stood by me and supported me immensely.

Can you describe to us in detail how your husband has supported you?

My husband has always pushed me to do more. He is my rock and staunchly stands by me. He has always let me be free to make my choices, be it pursuing my education or beginning a political career. I believe that family and husband’s support are the biggest sources of strength for a person like me, and my strong foundation is also because of them.

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When was it after your wedding that your husband ask you if you wanted to complete your education?

When my son was 1-2 years old. I had not finished my graduation till then. My husband insisted that I pursue an LLB after graduation and study further. I told him that I wanted to study and do good things in life. Most credit for my education goes to my husband. He has been my shield during all my highs and lows, even when I lost my father. I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am if it wasn’t for him.

Were you reluctant to continue your education after having children?

No, not really. I did an LLB. after completing BA. It is very difficult to study, take exams and manage your children at the same time. But my mother-in-law looked after my children very well. I used to leave for examinations in the morning and reach home in the evening, but I tried to balance everything. I managed my home and education and raised my children in a way that they were not away from me.

There is a lot of talk for and about women in politics in our country. In the previous term of the government, a Bill was passed about the reservation of seats for women in the Parliament. You are a 26-year-old woman from the Dalit community. You belong to a region that records many cases of discrimination against Dalits. What kind of changes do you think should be brought about in society for Dalits and women?

There is a major need for change in society. I can speak for myself, I have faced many difficulties during the elections in managing my home, children and my political career. Winning from Bharatpur as a Dalit woman was very difficult. The Chief Minister, other ministers and legislators there are from the BJP. It was a huge challenge. But I am here because of the people and the love and blessings they gave me. The BJP government used a lot of money and muscle power during the election. But the mandate of the people is so strong that it can make anybody rise to power and humble the powerful. There were other problems. Our financial status was not good, but the people pitched in for me. They helped me in arranging resources and it is only because of them that I won this election.

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How did you feel when you took oath as an MP and watched the entire House?

It felt great. I felt so proud that the world was watching me. I talked to other legislators as well. I had only seen all this on television before. I saw PM Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi closely and met the whole family. Me and my people of Bharatpur were really happy that I rose from that background. They have made me capable so I can be their voice in the Parliament. It is a matter of joy and pride for me. 

Are you confident that you will manage your family and political career in the future as well as you do now?

Yes, absolutely. I will manage it like I did before. My children are still with me. After leaving here, I manage my household chores. If I have to finish cleaning, I do that. When we have guests and visitors, I meet them as well. After finishing all the household work, I sit in the office and listen to people’s problems. 

If you visit Bharatpur, it will seem like a big village to you. If you look at the neighbouring areas like Alwar, Dausa, and Karauli-Dholpur, you will see that they have developed. But Bharatpur has never been developed. All the previous leaders did not try and improve the place. There is a heavy water crisis in that region. There is no water for drinking or irrigation. There are no employment opportunities there as such either. Areas like Alwar have factories, so the common people there can at least earn wages to sustain their families. But not in Bharatpur. So, the people move out to places like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and work in big factories. But I will try my best to resolve all of these problems and raise these issues in the Parliament. 

I try to balance everything and make time for all aspects of my life and also prioritise the people who have shown faith in me. 

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