The Congress party Thursday announced its first list of 125 candidates for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. As promised by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the run-up to the elections, the party has fielded 40 per cent women candidates — numbering 50 nominees in this list, most of whom would be first-time poll contenders. These are some of them:
Asha Singh, Unnao seat
She is the mother of Unnao rape victim. In the horrific Unnao case, ex-BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was convicted for rape and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Sengar was also convicted in the death of the victim’s father. Asha used to barely step out of her home before the 2017 incident and knew little about the outside world. She lived in fear after the incident amid constant threats, fearing for the lives of her daughter and other family members. But, now
she says the fight for justice for her daughter has changed her life. She says she is ready to fight the election from the Unnao seat to step up her campaign for justice.
Poonam Pandey, Shahjahanpur seat
Poonam Pandey is an Asha worker. While demanding an increase in their honorarium last year, Poonam along with other Asha workers were allegedly roughed up by police while they were marching towards Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence in Lucknow. A video of the incident had then gone viral. Later, Poonam, who had marks of injury on her face and a plastered right hand, along with other Asha workers met Priyanka Gandhi. The Congress has now fielded her from the Shahjahanpur constituency.
Sadaf Jafar, Lucknow Central seat
An actor-turned-activist, Sadaf Jafar was arrested on December 19, 2019 in Lucknow while she was doing a live
Facebook session during a protest against the CAA-NRC. She was booked on the charges of attempt to murder, rioting, criminal conspiracy, assault on public servant, etc. She was also among activists whose posters were put up at prominent crossings across Lucknow by the UP government, which described them as “rioters”. She had also received the government’s recovery notice asking her to pay for the damage of property during the protests that had become violent. After being declared as the Congress’s candidate from the Lucknow Central constituency, Jafar said the government’s crackdown could not succeed in “scaring” activists like her.
Ritu Singh, Muhammadi seat, Lakhimpur Kheri
Ritu Singh is a former SP worker. She was a SP-supported candidate for the post of block chief of Pasgawan block
in Lakhimpur Kheri district last year. She had charged that one of her election proposers were manhandled by a section of men to thwart her bid to file nomination. She had accused some BJP workers of allegedly tearing the clothes of her supporters in a bid to stop them from becoming her proposers. A video of the incident became viral on social
media and brought Ritu to the spotlight. She later joined the Congress after meeting Priyanka Gandhi along with her family in Lucknow. “I was once afraid that if I go to file my nomination papers then I would be beaten by goons,” she says, adding she is now however looking forward to contest the Assembly election.
Pankhuri Pathak, Gautam Buddh Nagar
Hailing from Uttarakhand, Pankhuri grew up in Delhi. Her parents are doctors. As a student of Delhi University, Pankhuri was joint secretary in DU’s Hansraj College. She later joined the Samajwadi Party and worked for its youth outfit. In 2016, she became the party’s first woman spokesperson, but early 2019, following differences with other party members, she quit to join the Congress. He husband, Anil Yadav, also a former SP spokesperson, too resigned last year and joined the Congress. Pankhuri is currently vice chairperson of the Congress’s UP Media Department.
Nida Ahmad, Sambhal
Born to a Sambhal family associated with the Congress, the 36-year-old Nida Ahmad began working as a journalist in Delhi nearly 12 years ago. A TV anchor, Nida has been part of the Aaj Tak Group, Zee Media, News India 24×7, among others. Earlier this week, she joined the Congress.
Archana Gautam, 26, Hastinapur
The Congress party’s candidate from the Hastinapur seat (SC-reserved) in Meerut is Archana Gautam, a 26-year-old actress and model. She is a known face in Hindi and Tamil films. She had done her graduation in journalism and mass communication from the IIMT, Meerut. She joined the Congress at an event in Lucknow last year. Gautam had won the Miss UP title in 2014 while studying at the IIMT. She won the Miss Bikini India title in 2018 — the year when she also represented India in the Miss Cosmos World and won the Miss Talent title.