Amid row over Citizenship Amendment Act, and proposed National Register of Citizens, a Pakistani immigrant, who became an Indian citizen in September 2019, was elected sarpanch of a gram panchayat in Rajasthan on Friday evening.
Neeta Kanwar, 36, won the election, defeating her nearest rival, Sonu Devi, by 362 votes. Seven women contested for the post in Natwada gram panchayat of the Tonk district.
Kanwar won 1,073 votes out of 2,494 votes that were polled.
Born in Pakistan, Kanwar came to India for higher studies. She graduated in Arts from Ajmer’s Sophia College in 2005 and got married to Punya Pratap Karan of Natwara on February 19, 2011. She applied for an Indian citizenship after marriage and got it in September 2019.
“I am thankful to the people of the village who have elected me as their sarpanch. I will serve them with honesty and work hard towards the panchayat’s development,” she said on Friday.
The first of five phases of panchayat elections in Rajasthan were held on Friday to elect sarpanch of 2,690 gram panchayats, including 89 in Tonk district. The results were declared the same day.
Kanwar’s husband is in travel business and her father-in-law, Thakur Laxman Singh Karan, has been a three-time sarpanch. He was a Congress leader.
“When the seat was declared general and reserved for women, my father-in-law told me to contest. He has served this panchayat for such a long time and he wanted the family to continue serving people here,” said Kanwar, who diligently campaigned before the polls.
She said she would like to work for the women by organizing them into self-help groups to ensure their financial independence.
Another Rajput woman, who was elected sarpanch of a panchayat in Tonk district in February 2010, became a celebrity as she gave up a plum corporate job to engage in grassroots politics. Chhavi Rajawat, who had an MBA degree, cast off her urban lifestyle and was elected sarpanch of Soda village
Kanwar is referred to as ‘Kanwrani Saab’ in the village. “I was bahu of a family, now I am bahu of the village. I will serve the panchayat like a daughter-in-law serves her family,” she said.
Her father, Swaroop Singh, and brother, Rajwant Singh, live in Pakistan and do farming. Her mother, Mohan Kanwar, lives in Jodhpur with her (Nita’s) uncle Nakhat Singh.
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