In an indication of a bigger role for Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP and party chief Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule in state politics, the NCP organised a massive rally at Aurangabad, which projected her as a next generation party leader.
More than 60,000 women congregated at the 50th rally of the Rastrawadi Yuvati Congress - a political platform for young women from 18 to 35 years of age - at Aurangabad on Sunday. Sule has run the show for the RYC from the start, which aims to tap the large vote bank. Sule has held several rallies across the state, interacting with women and inducting them into the NCP unit.
Pawar skipped the cabinet reshuffle and swearing-in ceremony of new ministers, including NCP's Tariq Anwar, for his daughter's rally, which was also attended by all state ministers and party leaders, including Pawar's nephew and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.
The mega show, which is estimated to have cost the party crores of rupees, has set tongues wagging about Sule's role in the party and sparked a discussion on who Pawar's political heir will be. However, at the rally, cousins Ajit and Supriya were a picture of camaraderie.
At a press meet after the rally, Sule said she was not eyeing state politics and would continue to represent Baramati in the Loksabha not just in 2014 but in the three ensuing polls. "This is not a brand-building exercise for me; it is about building a new, fresh leadership for the party. Right now, there is no vacancy to lead the party. May the NCP chief and all senior party leaders have a long life," she said.
"We are all trying to fulfill Pawar saheb's dream of gender equality in society," she said. She also informed that she would conduct several workshops across the state to strengthen the women's wing of the party.
The rally comes at a time when the party is on the back foot over allegations of corruption and is attempting to bring the focus back on its organisation.
Several women addressed the audience and raise embarrassing questions for party leaders, from police inaction on women's safety to neglect of economically backward students in the open category.
Pawar said their focus was not on votes but on 'social transformation'. "We will ensure no youngster has to drop out of education because of poverty," the leader added.