That piece of advice came from a rather unexpected quarter.
“Men won’t vote for you if you support alcohol prohibition,” the illiterate woman with salt-and-pepper hair told Supriya Sule (39) during her campaign in a dusty village in Daund tehsil. “Don’t say anything now. Implement your plans after elections…” the woman said.
This was in Baramati constituency in Pune district, home turf of the Pawar family led by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
Sule, Pawar’s daughter and the family’s GenNext candidate, was not surprised. She had just spoken in favour of prohibition at the village meeting the 200-odd people assembled in the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun.
The advice by the old, illiterate woman — among 15 lakh voters here who saw and heard Sule for the first time — speaks of how the Baramati’s hoi-polloi has accepted her.
Clad in a yellow salwar-kameez, Sule — a graduate who trotted the globe before settling down in Singapore and then Mumbai — smiles: “I am among my people here... but I can’t take them for granted.”
After all, it’s this constituency, once a drought-prone region in western Maharashtra, 280 km from Mumbai that charted her father’s rise to power.
Pawar has been voted her since four decades. He has won six Lok Sabha elections from here. Now the baton has been passed on to Sule.
Travelling in a black Land Cruiser, she covers nearly 20 villages daily, holding meetings at village squares and temples. The gruelling schedule kicks off at 7 am to end only a bit before midnight. Her only concessions en route are a couple of diet cola cans stacked in the car.
Her talk centres on her father’s political legacy, the government’s successful schemes including farm loan waiver. But, it is always peppered with local success stories. Sule recounts how a sugarcane worker’s son became a deputy collector or how spices made by women’s self-help groups are sold in supermarkets.
At times it even dwells on the effects of global warming on rural Maharashtra. Though most of her audience barely understands it, many are just curious to see ‘Pawarsaheb’s English-talking daughter’.
“Smart, isn’t she?” declares Kanchan Chauhan, resident of Nimbut village, 20 km from Baramati city. “Even if she hadn’t come here, we would have voted for her.”
With the host of problems plaguing locals — struggling sugar co-operatives, problem of educated unemployed, Sule’s challenges are cut out. “There is an issue of unemployment and we need to stress more on higher education. That’s the only buffer for the future,’’ she said, as she clambers onto her SUV en route to her next halt.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party is yet to announce a candidate opposite Sule.