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A paved road to Parliament for Supriya Sule

By Harish Joshi in Baramati
April 14, 2009 12:18 IST
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She is her father's daughter and this message goes out loud and clear when Supriya Sule addresses the voters of Baramati represented for years by Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar.

Opposing Pawars in their stronghold of Baramati has most of the times been a symbolic gesture on part rival parties and this time the story is not different.

Kanta Nalawde, fielded by BJP against Supriya Sule, is not expected to spring a surprise despite the fact that the Pawar daughter is fighting her first Lok Sabha election. Pawar is contesting from Madha in Solapur district, leaving his home turf to Supriya, a Rajya Sabha MP.

The delimited Baramati constituency in Pune district is considered a Pawar bastion with the clan dominating local self governments and sugar cooperatives in the region in an almost monopolistic politics.

Loan waiver for farmers announced by UPA government in which Pawar is Agriculture minister, creation of self-help groups for women empowerment, a large number of educational institutions under the umbrella of 'Vidya Pratishthan', started by the NCP president are some of the propaganda tools Supriya has employed in her campaigning in which Maharashtra minister Ajit Pawar, nephew of Sharad Pawar is in the forefront.

Her rival Kanta Nalawde of BJP, who was MLC from 2000 to 2006 in Maharashtra assembly, alleges that the common farmer and ordinary people of Baramati had never benefited from the 'dynastic politics' of the Pawars that centred around money power.

Supriya Sule replies in the negative when asked whether her victory in Baramati would establish her as her father's political heir.

"No", is the reply she gave without further expanding on the issue that has been a topic of discussion in Maharashtra since the young Rajya Sabha MP entered politics a few years ago.

This response is seen in the context of political career of another Pawar family member, Ajit Pawar, rooted firmly in the state politics and whose feathers are best left unruffled.

Talking to PTI on a campaign trail, Supriya painstakingly made the point that she was just one of many party workers who look up to Pawar for guidance in their political career. What has she learned from her father? The reply is "hard work and in-depth study."

On Pawar's Prime Minsterial prospects Supriya says, "One has to be realistic and not sentimental on such issues. I am practical. You need sufficient numbers to become the PM."

What are the issues she focuses while seeking votes? "National security, stability, price rise, food security and development -- we (UPA) have been able to ensure food security as well as a fall in prices," she says, and identifies water and power as Maharashtra's burning problems.

"I will endeavour to facilitate greater funding for state projects if I win," Supriya promises.

"I am confident of my performance and have full faith in my party organisation and the voters in Baramati," she says, adding she had started interacting with her voters three and a half month back and wants to personally contact five lakh of the over 17 lakh electorate.

While addressing the voters, Supriya makes it a point to remind them of the "responsibility" to ensure that the Pawar supremacy in the constituency is maintained with a tag that the election would also decide her future direction in politics, which she describes as an "extension of social work."

Kanta Nalawde (BJP) says the development of Baramati had been confined to those close to the Pawars.

"Recently five farmers committed suicide in Baramati and their families have not been given any financial aid. The roads are bad and the people are still thirsting for water despite four decade long political clout wielded by the Pawar family," she claims.

Also in the fray is one more woman candidate Mrinalini Kakde who is contesting as an independent. The Kakde family which hails from Baramati are considered traditional rivals in local politics.

The Baramati seat was won by Sharad Pawar by a margin of over four lakh votes defeating his nearest BJP rival Prithviraj Jachak in the last (2004) elections.

The NCP expects the daughter Supriya to repeat the performance.

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Harish Joshi in Baramati
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