Firebrand leader who rose swiftly till downfall

She rose swiftly through the ranks, having made her mark as a firebrand leader who had saffron politics as part of her legacy. Mayaben Surendrabhai Kodnani, convicted of murder, conspiracy and spreading communal hatred, is the daughter of a staunch RSS worker who had suffered the pains of Partition, moving from Tharparkar in Sind province to Deesa in Gujarat.

Kodnani, the first sitting MLA and woman to be convicted in a case involving the 2002 Gujarat riots, is a gynaecologist. She owes her fame, however, more to being a politician than to being a doctor, says a member of the fraternity.

From her first election as a corporator in Ahmedabad, it took her 12 years to become a minister. Dr Kodnani, now 53, resigned as minister after her arrest in 2009.

Educated in a Gujarati-medium school founded and run by her father in Deesa, she joined Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, the RSS women's wing, around the time she entered Baroda Medical College from where she got an MBBS followed by a diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics.

Some 20 years ago, she moved to Ahmedabad and set up the Shivam Maternity Hospital in Kubernagar in Naroda, which has a sizeable Sindhi population. In 1995, the BJP fielded her in the Ahmedabad civic elections from Saijpur ward. The BJP swept the polls and she was made deputy chairperson of the civic health committee and later elevated as chairman of the standing committee, the first woman to make that post.

Her skills as an orator boosted her popularity among Sangh leaders, including L K Advani who mentored her. She had been taking up her community's cause since her AMC days, leading angry protests over issues such as temple demolitions and removal of illegally built shops in areas dominated by her community.

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