NRI Quits Job in Australia to Become Sarpanch in Rajasthan Village

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Hanuman Chaudhary (centre) with villagers

Jaipur:  A phone call from his father changed 27-year-old Hanuman Chaudhary's life forever. Mr Chaudhary, who was working as a manager at a resort on the Gold Coast in Australia, came back to his village in Rajasthan's Nagaur to contest the panchayat election and become a sarpanch.

Mr Chaudhary's father Bhura Ram had to call him back because of a controversial government order that set educational prerequisites for contesting village polls. The order requires those fighting panchayat elections to have studied till Class 8 in school and members of the panchayat samiti, which governs a group of villages, to have completed Class 10, leaving 85 per cent of the rural candidates ineligible.

The High Court too has refused to interfere with the government order.

"After Class 8 minimum qualification rule came on the ground people of village contacted me. I asked my brother, he said if you want to do social work you can come back. He supported me fully so I came here and won the election with good margin," Mr Chaudhary told NDTV. He said he was earning Rs 2 crore a year in Australia.

He launched a door-to-door campaign to win with a record 6000 votes, aware of the complicated caste politics in his village. Mr Chaudhary said his campaign was different in the sense he never touched upon caste issues.

"I did not speak anything about casteism or the Jat-Rajput rivalry, I told personally everybody about development and that was the main point," said Mr Chaudhary who belongs to the Jat community. His opponent in the election was from the Rajput community. Jats and Rajputs are considered traditional political rivals.

The young, educated, English speaking candidate wooed the youth in his village.

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"If an uneducated person becomes the village head, he cannot go to Jaipur and interact with bureaucrats and ministers. But Hanuman bhaiyya has come from Australia, he can reach the administration in Jaipur," said 23-year-old Mangra Ram.

Mr Chaudhary may have charmed the villagers to win the panchayat election, but complicated web of caste politics and improving infrastructure are challenges that lie ahead for him.

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