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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Will BJP make inroads into Pawars’ bastion?

Majority of women mouth a “no”, prompting Sule to urge them to not vote for a government that has only “lied” to them. “This battle is between their lies and our truth,” she stresses.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 12, 2019 08:55 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Baramati
Lok Sabha elections 2019: Will BJP make inroads into Pawars’ bastion?
Lok Sabha elections 2019: Will BJP make inroads into Pawars’ bastion?(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
         

“Did you get Rs15 lakh in your accounts? Are your children among the two crore the government promised jobs to? Have your farming incomes doubled? Have the costs from cooking gas to diesel come down ?,” asks Supriya Sule, two-term Member of Parliament (MP) of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and daughter of party chief, Sharad Pawar, to a small crowd of primarily women in Bhor city, 197 km from Mumbai.

Majority of women mouth a “no”, prompting Sule to urge them to not vote for a government that has only “lied” to them. “This battle is between their lies and our truth,” she stresses.

The campaign is starting to pick up and Sule is leaving nothing to chance as her Baramati constituency and home turf of the Pawars goes to polls on April 23. In Bhor, her campaign meetings include many women voters and she is clearly popular among them.

“Supriyatai has been very accessible. Everyone in Bhor knows their MP, because she has been visiting us often in the past five years. I admire the way she speaks and conducts herself. I don’t think there is any doubt about the work she has put in as a Parliamentarian. She will win, but it is not going to be easy poll battle for her this time,’’ said Snehalata Gadkar, a government servant and among those who had gathered for one of the meetings to hear Sule. Gadkar, is clear that she will vote for Sule.

Before Sule made her political debut from Baramati constituency in Pune district in 2009, her father was the MP from the family borough since 1991. In the 2014 Modi wave, however, Sule’s victory margin came down to around 69,000 votes, from more than 3 lakh.

As Baramati constituency goes to polls on April 23, there many like Gadkar, who say 2019 battle may also not be a walkover for Sule.

Here’s why.

Sule is pitched against Kanchan Kul, wife of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) legislator from Daund Assembly segment (falls within Baramati Lok Sabha constituency), Rahul Kul. Kanchan is fighting on the BJP ticket and has clearly been propped up by the party to pose a challenge to the Pawars’ domination. While Kanchan is a political novice, she is married into a well-known local political family, associated with the NCP in the beginning. Kul’s father-in-law, Subhashrao and mother-in-law, Ranjana, have been NCP MLAs from Daund. In Daund, the poll battle is being described as one between Baramati’s daughter versus Daund’s daughter-in-law.

Rahul Kul, who is directing his wife’s campaign, has an axe to grind against the Pawars. In 2009, he was defeated as a NCP candidate by a party rebel and independent, following which he quit the party.

“Many here, including people from the Congress, are fed up of his politics of propping up some leaders and then ensuring they fall when it’s not convenient for the Pawar family. On ground, we have direct support of three legislators and indirect support of other opposition leaders as
well.’’

The Baramati constituency in Pune district includes six Assembly constituencies of Bhor, Khadakwasala, Daund, Indapur, Purandar and Baramati. Of this, the BJP-Sena-RSP have three seats and NCP-Congress have three seats.

He added, “But, more importantly, other than Baramati city, the Pawars have not been able to develop this constituency. We stand for inclusive and all-round development here. My wife may be a political novice, but she comes from a political family.’’

Sule told HT, “Let the best candidate win. I am going to people on the strength of the work I have done in the past five years and I am proud of it. My constituency is among the best performing across the country for almost all government schemes. With the PM planning a campaign rally in Baramati, I know BJP is putting all its might here.’’

Shiv Sena minister Vijay Shivtare, who is an MLA from Purandar and an opponent of Pawar, is also helping Kul in her campaign. The BJP has also reached out to senior Congress leader Harshvardhan Patil who lost the last Assembly election to the NCP candidate in Indapur segment under Baramati constitiency. The NCP chief Pawar too held a meeting with Patil to seek his support for Sule.

There is indeed a perception that the patronage of Pawars has been more for their home town of Baramati than other areas and this could help the Kuls.

“For the first time, we have a contestant from Daund, the wife of a local MLA, who is popular. When we compare Daund to Baramati, we realise our taluka is not as well developed vis-a-vis industry, colleges, schools etc. So, Kul will get support definitely. I am not sure if it is enough to topple Supriyatai, who is a good contestant. Her victory margin will definitely reduce. This is not an easy contest,’’ said Vinod Shelke, a Daund farmer and a restaurant owner here.

Shelke has not yet made up his mind about who to choose.

While Modi factor continues to have some traction in the urban areas here, there is no doubt that the poll battle in Baramati will be fought for or against Sule.

There is indeed a perception that patronage of Pawars has been more for their home town of Baramati than other areas and this could help the Kuls.

“For the first time, we have a contestant from Daund, wife of a local MLA, who is popular. When we compare Daund to Baramati, we realise our taluka is not as well developed vis a vis industry, colleges, schools etc. So, Kul will get support definitely. I am not sure if it is enough to topple Supriya tai, who is a good contestant. Her victory margin will definitely reduce, this is not an easy contest,’’ said Vinod Shelke, a Daund farmer and a restaurant owner here.

Shelke has not yet made up his mind about who to choose.

While Modi factor continues to have some traction in the urban areas here there is no doubt that the poll battle in Baramati will be fought for or against Sule.

First Published: Apr 12, 2019 02:26 IST

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