Remya Haridas, just 32 years old, has many firsts to her credit. Firsts that she does not even think are worth mentioning although for the records these constitute a list of credits, under which lies a story of struggle, grit and determination as a woman and a Dalit. Her father is a daily wage labourer, her mother a tailor in Kozhikode, Kerala, and she herself a singer who had declared earlier on in her political trajectory, “I will sing my way into your hearts.”

She worked for the Congress at the district level and in a talent hunt was handpicked by the party to contest these parliamentary elections from Alathur. She emerged from a bitter contest against CPI(M)’s PK Biju who was the sitting MP since 2009 from thsi SC Reserved seat.

Haridas is the only woman candidate from Kerala to be elected to the Lok Sabha in 2019. She is the second Dalit woman to be elected MP from Kerala in 48 years. The first was Bhargavi Thankappan from the CPIU who had been won the Lok Sabha polls from Adoor in 1971.

She sang through her campaign, inviting derision from the Left rivals. She did not let this deter her and continued the reach out that finally gave her a 1.58 lakh victory over Biju. She got a resounding 5.33 lakh mandate. And at the moment of writing is racing through her constituency, addressing conventions and meetings with now a personal assistant monitoring her phone calls in Delhi, and party MLA’s filtering requests in Kerala.

The video below demonstrates the verve and freshness of her campaign, that has senior citizens clapping to the beat and singing alongside, even as middle aged Congress leaders break into a dance:

This earned her strong criticism but local Congress workers insist that this worked in her favour. Reputed writer Deepa Nishant writing that the Lok Sabha polls were not a talent singing contest or a temple committee selection.To this the young Dalit candidate retorted: “I will sing and speak. These are my weapons. I will ignore such criticism.” This earned her accolades from the masses according to her workers. To add to this LDF Convenor A Vijayaraghavan criticised her for visiting Muslim League leaders with, ““she has visited (PK) Kunhalikutty after her candidature was announced. I don’t know what will happen to her now.” The sexist reference was to an ice cream parlour sex racket in the 1990s in which the Muslim League leaders name had cropped up, although he was exonerated by the courts later.

This also worked in her favour, more so as she continued to respond to the attacks with a smile and a song. Saying merely, “People who make such loaded comments should realise that I also come from a family.”

He was indirectly referring to the infamous ice cream parlour sex racket in the 1990s in which Indian Union Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikutty’s name had cropped up. Kunhalikutty was cleared by various courts later.

Haridas is proud of her humble origins. Hers was a life of struggle but she broke through to make a mark in school itself, winning awards, and securing her space in the sun. Vivacious, intelligent, and with a sensitivity and grace that was visible through her entire campaign, this young Dalit woman, is set to make her presence felt in the Lok Sabha.