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27 April, 2009

A newspaper hawker who made it to parliament

27 Apr 2009, CHANDIGARH: It could qualify as a real rags-to-riches story with a lot of determination and guts thrown in. A strong contender for the ChandigarhLok Sabha seat, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former MP Satya Pal Jain has come a long way from being a newspaper hawker.
The quick-speaking Jain, 56, is one of the youngest and probably the most educated contestant among the main contenders in the poll fray in Chandigarh.
"I have my feet firmly on the ground as I still remember the days when I used to help my father in his small newspaper shop on the roadside. I have faced many difficulties in life and all the memories are still fresh in my mind," Jain told IANS.
"These memories gave me motivation to work for people from downtrodden sections who are deprived of basic amenities," Jain said.
Jain was born in a lower middle-class family of a newspaper agent in Kharar town in Punjab, around 15 km from here.
Today, he is not only a BJP leader but a leading lawyer in constitutional, service and electoral law. He is one of the lawyers of BJP's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani in the Babri Masjid demolition case before the Liberhan Commission and has also represented other BJP politicians such as M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prem Kumar Dhumal and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Jain, while narrating his difficult days, said: "I still remember the days when before going to school I had to reach our small newspaper shop in the wee hours to distribute newspapers. Then again I had to return to the shop after school hours to help my father in his work."
He added: "In 1965, my father had an attack of tuberculosis and I had to leave my studies completely for some time to look after our shop. At that moment I thought it was the end of my dreams, but somehow with the help of some family members and friends I managed to keep a balance between my studies and the shop."
Shashi Bala Jain, his wife, said: "When I look back, I feel proud to be his wife. He is a self-made man. Though there were infinite difficult times in our life he never compromised with his ideologies and principles."Jain has been in politics since his student union days, when he was jailed for a year during the 1975-77 Emergency.
Pramod Kumar, director of the Institute of Development and Communication, Chandigarh, who is Jain's classmate and family friend, said: "Jain is a real fighter, his life is full of many ups and downs. The memories are still fresh in my mind when he was arrested during the Emergency days."
"Both of us had gone to take admission in the Law department at Punjab University (PU). Jain also had his name in the merit list but he was arrested right outside the administrative office," stated Kumar.
He added: "He had an option to leave the movement against Emergency to avoid the arrest and continue his studies. However, he left the studies and decided to go to jail."
Jain first contested elections from Chandigarh as a BJP candidate in 1991, when he was only 39, but lost by a margin of nearly 15,000 votes.
He, however, won the seat in the next elections in 1996 by defeating Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal by a margin of around 25,000 votes. He won again in 1998 but lost in 2004 by over 40,000 votes to Bansal, who is now the union minister of state for finance.
The two are squaring off again in the Lok Sabha polls May 13, and Jain is using information technology for his election campaign this time.
"I am available on all the social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook. I have my own interactive website and blog that I update daily. I have mentioned all my works and future planning on my website. Anyone can leave his question there and I answer it at the earliest," he said.
Jain's determined rise in life is acknowledged even by his political opponents.
His main rival and sitting Chandigarh MP Bansal said: "It is very good that he has risen from such a humble background and I am happy about it. This proves the fact that democracy gives wings to the wingless and brings monarch to the road."