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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

BJP’s change of tack to dethrone Pawars: Conquer Indapur first

In Baramati, BJP has fielded Gopichand Padalkar, a Dhangar community (shephard) leader against Ajit Pawar, the former deputy chief minister who has served as MLA from here for six terms

pune Updated: Oct 19, 2019 16:47 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Sunetra Pawar, Ajit Pawar’s wife, is incharge of Baramati as Ajit and Sharad Pawar campaign through the rest of the state.
Sunetra Pawar, Ajit Pawar’s wife, is incharge of Baramati as Ajit and Sharad Pawar campaign through the rest of the state.(HT/PHOTO)
         

After taking the battle right into the Pawar family’s “pocket borough” during the recent Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to have changed its tack for Baramati for the Assembly elections.

A direct attack on the five-decade old Pawar bastion seems off the cards. Instead, ensuring the victory of Pawar detractors, cue Harshavardhan Patil contesting from neighbouring Indapur on the BJP ticket, seems to be the move.

In Baramati, BJP has fielded Gopichand Padalkar, a Dhangar community (shephard) leader against Ajit Pawar, the former deputy chief minister who has served as MLA from here for six terms.

The BJP’s decision to “import” a leader like Padalkar into Baramati seems more compulsion rather than shrewd political strategy drawing on the Smriti Irani “import” into Amethi during the Lok Sabha polls to defeat Rahul Gandhi.

BJP fielded Irani, an outsider and presented her as solution to decades of neglect.

In Baramati, Padaklar’s entry lies in his caste and the BJP’s inability to groom a strong local leader.

With Dhangars accounting for 25 per cent of the Indapur-Baramati belt, BJP wants to benefit from Padalkar’s candidature in Indapur, where Patil is locked in a fierce battle against NCP’s Datta Bharne, another Dhangar leader.

For the record, Patil is Ajit Pawar are bête noir. Patil recently defected to the BJP after realising that Pawar may not give the Indapur seat to the Congress, the party he represented at the time.

For Pawar, the question is, as many NCP workers say, is not winning from Baramati, but winning by what margin.

“After his recent resignation episode, Sharad Pawar’s nephew’s popularity has gone up,” says Amit Rajwanshi, a local journalist.

Pawar had resigned as Baramati MLA citing a case by the Enforcement Directorate against his uncle and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

“I don’t want to sound over confident, but I can give it in writing that my winning margin this time will be over one lakh votes,” said Ajit Pawar, at a recent press conference.

Confident about victory? Ajit Pawar, like his uncle, hasn’t yet returned to Baramati after filing nomination papers and is instead campaigning for other candidates across the state. At home, Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra is in-charge of his campaign.

“Be it Ajit Pawar or senior Saheb (Sharad Pawar), they come here only a day before polling. This is because they have been working relentlessly for the development of Baramati and people here understand this,” said Sunetra.

Despite being drought prone, Baramati, for many, is a shining example of development with a rich network of cooperatives and sugar, automobile and dairy industries. The Pawar bastion also boasts a chain of educational institutes.

During the recently held Lok Sabha polls, BJP took on Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, with party president Amit Shah personally campaigning against her.

However, Sule defeated BJP’s Kanchan Kool by 1.5 lakh votes.

In 2014 assembly polls, prime minister Narendra Modi personally held a rally in Baramati against Ajit Pawar, to no avail.

This time, BJP leaders feel instead of excessively focusing on Baramati, if it can ensure the victory of people like Harshavardhan Patil, for whom chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has noww personally campaigned, it might be beneficial in the long run.

BJP’s Padalkar of course does not agree with this. “I am reaching out to each and every voter and can feel that people are fed up of Pawars. It’s for the same reason BJP has given me the ticket from this seat - to upset their calculations.”

Baramati blues

Baramati is on the east of Pune district and is known to be a drought-prone area. It has rich network of cooperatives and textile, sugar and dairy industries.

- In 2014, Ajit Pawar defeated BJP’s Prabhakar Gawade by a margin of 90,000 votes

- 2019 LS polls, Supriya Sule won by a margin of 1.5 lakh votes