Who is Remya Haridas, daughter of a daily wage worker who is seen as handpicked by Congress President Rahul Gandhi to contest in 2019 parliamentary polls in Kerala? Beyond one among the only two women in the Congress list so far, she is perhaps the most unlikely candidate in the fray across parties in Kerala.
One of the toppers of Gandhi's 'Talent Hunt' in search for upcoming leaders in 2010, the 32-year old is a young prodigy who belongs to—and is a local champion of— the local marginalised Dalit community. She is well versed in development ideas as well as creative arts, and under the watchful eyes of Gandhi, made quite a meteoric rise up the ladders of the organisation within the last two decades.
Remya is the daughter of Haridas, a Dalit daily wage worker in a rural suburb of Kozhikode district, Kunnamangalam. She ventured into social work quite early on in life, following the footsteps of her mother Radha, who is currently state secretary of Congress women's wing, Mahila Congress.
She cut her teeth in Kerala Students Union, the Congress student outfit, and later in Youth Congress, the Congress youth outfit, all within the last decade, eventually becoming Youth Congress Kozhikode parliament secretary in 2010. After winning the talent hunt, she was soon exposed to a bigger world— sailing across countries such as Japan, Malaysia Singapore and Sri Lanka— as one of the ten delegates to attend "Ship for World Youth Programme", a training programme to nurse young leaders by the previous Congress central government.
Once back home, Remya plunged herself into social work, associating herself with non-profits, and developing her own initiatives to help advance aides to the underprivileged, especially the tribals and Dalits households. Soon, she was looked upon as a motivational trainer and speaker in the local, apart from winning the Kunnamangalam block panchayat, a traditional red turf, for Congress. She is the president of the block panchayat now.
"She was closely associated with Nilambur LSG (Local Self Government Department) as a volunteer and campaigner with Sadgamaya School Education programme, Sameeksha Literacy plan and Oppathinoppam - a tribal education programme. Many people and organisations watched this Nilambur model social intervention scheme as a novel step. She played a vital role here as trainer and campaigner," said a person close to her, requesting not to be named.
Remya is also a talented artist and is pursuing a postgraduation in music— something that has come handy in her career too. Her rallies are famous for not just their deft speeches but for their entertainment quotient too— she easily breaks into film songs, or her own parodies of film songs, while making a speech, winning hearts as well as effectively communicating her message. After her candidature was announced, some of her old rally speeches-songs have made a buzz on social media.
Remya was busy with campaigning and could not be reached for a direct comment. In one of her old speeches, she credits Mahatma Gandhi as one of her deepest inspirations. "Because I've made my journey upholding Gandhian principles, I have received training to hold my ground in any situation," she said.
Remya's candidature— she was picked for Alathur seat in Palakkad district— is unique since she managed to secure a ticket at a time when many of her seniors with years of experience failed to get a ticket or were blocked by internal feuds. But, her relative non-visibility in the media notwithstanding, Remya's name was doing the rounds since the early days of list preparation in the Congress. Given the political compulsions to field women in the polls, and the lack of choices in Alathur, a reserved constituency, may have played a role too.
However, she is up against no small fight. She is contesting to upseat a regional heavyweight, PK Biju, who has been an MP from the seat since 2009. For someone who has cleared nearly insurmountable odds in the past, this would remain as the biggest test yet before making history as Kerala's second Dalit woman MP, after Bhargavi Thankappan who represented the state's Adoor constituency in 1971.