Raju Kendre comes from Pimpri Village located in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
“I come from an agricultural background. My parents and elder brother are farmers. I did my primary schooling in a government school in Pimpri and went to Buldana district for further studies. I’ve stayed away from my family since then. I graduated in Public Services through distance learning.”
Post his graduation, Raju worked with an organisation and was placed in tribal belt of Mel Ghat in Amravati district of Maharashtra.
Raju is currently pursuing his post graduation in Social Entrepreneurship from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
“I kept visiting my village every now and then. I was always active into social issues and had a good repo with people from my village. It was around 2013 that my attention was drawn to corruption in MNREGA project. I spoke to local authorities, filed RTIs and questioned the concerned parties. It was an NCP panel then. I was 21, vulnerable to being underestimated. “
That was far from what Raju was.
“Mujhe dhamki milta tha. Mere ghar pe raat ko pathhar fenkte the. Par mein dara nahi. Fir woh log mujhe lalach dia 10% lene ka. I told them that this archaic practise is now a passé.”
It was August of 2015 when Raju figured that only protesting wouldn’t take him far.
“These people had muscle power, liquor power and a lot of money. I decided to stand against them in upcoming elections. Everyone laughed at me. The opposition challenged me that I would not get any candidate.”
Raju didn’t come from a political background nor had any political support. He decided to take it up like a challenge.
“It was not easy. But it was required.”
Obviously, Raju’s parents were against it but Raju was resilient. Raju had decent support from village peers and the Sarpanch himself.
Raju garnered support of youth from his village. With around 40 young campaigners by his side, Raju analysed problems faced by the villagers, researched on ways to curb them, pros and cons of them and linked solutions proposed to various government schemes.
“I was one of the only candidate to come up with a manifesto. We made it in Marathi so that everyone could understand.”
A beginner, Raju managed some INR 20,000 to spend while the others spent whooping INR 12 Lacks.
“We had to get the best out of whatever we had. We did a lot of ground work and focused more on development and curbing pain points.”
However, Raju lost. He managed to garner 35% of votes with 7 candidates.
“I learnt a lot during my campaigning. I do not question people’s choice. Though we realised how money works in multiple ways. The day we lost, every supporter gathered at my home because they were worried that I am young and might do something wrong. I just told them than this was only the beginning.”
Raju, apart from his studies is continuously working on creating grass-root network and policies. He is usually seen with one or the other book on political science in his hand.
“This is our country. One can either crib about it on social media or just take it as a challenge, head-on. I want to change the misconception that you can get into politics if you have a family background in it or a lot of money.”
Raju shall now be contesting Jilla Panchayat elections.
More power to Raju and youngsters like him who are unbroken and courageous enough to take up ambitious tasks.
A story by Shruti Chaturvedi. If you are aboard the Jagriti Yatra train, go find her to tell your story. We are all ears!
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