Uike says her candidature came as a surprise to her, but believes that her journey will be a source of inspiration for many tribal women.
The BJP left many surprised when it fielded tribal leader Sampatiya Uike as its Rajya Sabha candidate from Madhya Pradesh – including Uike herself. “I thought someone is joking with me. But then I started receiving several calls. I rushed home and asked my son to switch on the TV,” Uike said in an exclusive interview with ThePrint. “I was overwhelmed when I saw my name. This could happen only in the BJP,” she said.
Even the fact that Amit Shah knew her came as a revelation to Uike. “I have never met adhyaksh-ji. There was this one meeting in Bhopal and Amit Shah had come, even then I heard him from far away. I have never met him face to face. I am sure if I stand beside him today, he won’t be able to recognize me,” she said sheepishly.
The 49-year-old tribal panchayat leader from Madhya Pradesh believes that her stunning journey from a teacher to a member of the Upper House would be a source of inspiration for many tribal women. Madhya Pradesh has 11 seats in the Rajya Sabha.
Uike, who would be the first from her state to represent the tribal population in the Upper House, will contest from the seat left vacant after the untimely death of union environment minister Anil Dave. Although Uike had fought the 2013 MP assembly elections, she had lost.
Currently the panchayat president in Mandla district in MP, Uike started off as a school teacher at Saraswat Sishu Mandir and then went on to form the Mahila Mandal. In 1999, she contested her first panchayat elections for the position of the village sarpanch.
However, it was not before 2003 that Uike started organizing groups called Shakti Samooh to help tribal women earn their livelihoods. The groups which started off with 4000 members, now boasts of a membership of 1,60,000.
While announcing Uike’s candidature in the Rajya Sabha, union minister J. P. Nadda said, “She (Uike) has always highlighted the issues of tribal women, and the parliamentary board approved her candidature for the seat headed for a bypoll with consensus “.