Slogans, speeches and banners, all praising Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Supriya Sule for her ‘save the girl child’ campaign, made for the perfect setting for Sule’s grand entry into Maharashtra politics.
The only problem was that Sule’s cousin and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar was conspicuous by his absence at Sunday’s big event marking the culmination of the padyatra, fuelling speculation of all not being right in the family.
After entering politics in 2006 by espousing women’s causes through the promotion of self-help groups, Sule attempted to expand base, this time with a fresh and timely cause. While Sule made an entry into politics through the Rajya Sabha and eventually made it to the Lok Sabha in 2009, her role in state politics has been insignificant.
To spread the message against female foeticide, Sule took up a four-day padyatra, which started on Thursday at Satara’s Naigaon village and concluded in Pune on Sunday. At the event, Sule’s father and party chief Sharad Pawar praised his daughter. “Supriya has brought cheer to the whole campaign by shouldering the responsibility of such an important issue,” said Pawar.
At the event, girls from across the state participated in the padyatra, shouting slogans such as, “Twinkle twinkle little star, Supriya didi superstar.” Maharashtra rural development minister Jayant Patil, who was also present at the event, used Sule’s forum to announce statewide scheme – gruhaswamini – to ensure larger participation of women at the gramsabha level.
Sule’s campaign finds roots in the recent census report, which painted an alarming picture of the deteriorating sex ratio in Maharashtra.
According to the Census 2011, Maharashtra’s sex ratio – number of girls born against 1,000 boys – in rural parts is 880 while for urban areas it is 888.
NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakade ruled out fissures in the Pawar family. “Ajit Pawar could not attend Supriya Sule’s programme because he was in Ahmednagar. Due to bad weather he could not make it to Pune by flight,” Kakade said.
Banners welcoming and wishing the Baramati MP dotted the route from Satara to Pune during Sule’s padyatra.