About five years ago, Ashaben was 35 and held a PhD degree. But she was still jobless. After her initial frustration, she decided it was time to reform the education system in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a man who has been amply vocal about his ambitious development vision. But the hitch was: to change a system, one has to be in the system.Thus, Ashaben Patel, who has her heart in social work and soul in teaching, made the leap into politics.Ashaben’s first poll fight was in 2012, when she was beaten by a BJP MLA on 24,203 votes. Not the one to give up, she worked harder. This Assembly elections, Ashaben, now 40, toppled Narayanbhai Patel, a five-time MLA, at Unjha constituency which includes PM Modi’s hometown Vadnagar.Speaking with DNA, Ashaben said, “My native is Vishol which, too, falls under Unjha. I lost the previous elections as I was very new and people in Vadnagar did not know me. This year, I have won because of the people’s love.”Ashaben wrested the seat which falls in the Patidar-dominated Mehsana district with a margin of over 19,000 votes. She attributed her victory to her extensive social work in Vadnagar.Mehsana was the epicentre of the Patidar agitation which flared up in 2015. Ashaben bagged 81,797 votes as against Patel’s 62,268 votes.”In 2012, every one knew me in Unjha, but not in Vadnagar. My social work spread across 20 villages in Vadnagar over the past few years. Social work is carried out in small places and are low-cost affair,” she says.Ask her why she did not join the BJP. “Their ideology does not suit me,” she notes.Being a Gujarati, she does not accept BJP’s campaign – ‘Hu Chu Vikas, Hu Chu Gujarat’. “The word ‘Hu’ in Gujarati is about an individual and represents arrogance,” she points out.A PhD in Chemistry, Ashaben is a guide to six students today. “I have been into social and community work since my childhood, the reason I never got married. But when I did not get a job despite being a PhD, I had to clear GPSC to join as a class 2 officer. I wanted to teach, but did not get a job; I decided to change the education system. I first fought in zilla panchayat elections, followed by the 2012 Assembly elections.”Now that she has finally won a ticket to the Assembly, Ashaben has set her priority clear: improve the education and health care systems.SYSTEM ERRORAshaben Patel joined politics to change education system in the state Lost in 2012 polls, this time, beat BJP’s Narayan Patel in Unjha

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Once jobless, PhD woman slays 5-time BJP MLA from Unjha