For years, 75-year-old Babanrao Nimbalkar, a small paddy farmer in Madha, has cursed Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and his bias towards his home turf Baramati.
Nimbalkar lost his two acres when his village Hirdoshi, like 13 others got submerged to make way for the Neera-Devghar irrigation project. The water from this much-delayed dam washed the sugarcane fields in neighbouring Baramati before reaching Madha, he claimed.
But, Pawar’s entry as a candidate from his region has changed Nimbalkar’s views.
“We are hoping Pawarsaheb will transform this region, just like Baramati. For years we have been ignored and been witness to progress next door. Now it’s our turn,” he said.
Nimbalkar echoes the views of a majority of the constituency’s 15.59 lakh voters, whose hopes from Pawar are sky high.
And why not?
Madha, made up of four assembly seats from Solapur and two from Satara, is among the most backward regions in affluent western Maharashtra. A dry region with scanty rainfall, poor employment opportunities, irrigation and power shortage, farmers here have felt slighted at the lush sugarcane fields, wine and milk co-operatives flourishing in its neighbouring areas like Baramati, Kolhapur and Sangli.
The Solapur-Satara region is a Congress-NCP bastion and in Madha, four assembly segments are with NCP legislators but development has been skewed, restricted to pocketboroughs of local leaders.
The BJP is hoping to cash on this discontent and has fielded sitting MP of Solapur, Subhash Deshmukh (50) from here.
In the last elections, Deshmukh had emerged a giant killer after he defeated Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s wife Ujwala in her home turf in the 2004 polls. Shinde was chief minister then.
But, as NCP MLA from Phaltan and Water Resources Minister Ramraje Nimbalkar pointed out, “It makes little difference who the BJP sends here to campaign. Pawar will win with a thumping majority. This is his home turf.”