A year ago, Suman Patil, 47, and Trupti Sawant, 34, were taking care of their children, doing their chores or hosting their husbands’ political guests. Of late, their lives have been mostly about addressing public gatherings, visiting voters and addressing their issues. The campaign and elections now done, they finally have some time to grieve.
Suman is the wife of NCP leader R R Patil, a six-time MLA who died in February after a prolonged battle with cancer.
She has contested from his seat, Tasgaon. Trupti’s husband, two-time Shiv Sena legislator Prakash Sawant, died of jaundice the same month, leading to the bypoll in Bandra East, where Trupti’s opponent is Narayan Rane.
“My mother, a simple woman, preferred to be in the background. After Aaba’s death, she was in no frame of mind to
contest but Ajit Pawar sahib came home and convinced her that there are incomplete dreams of Aaba that she can now fulfil,” said Smita Patil, 23, Suman’s eldest daughter.
“Several people would share Aaba’s anecdotes or show her old photographs during campaigning. Once she was home after the day, her eyes would turn moist,” Smita said.
Senior NCP women leaders such as Supriya Sule and Vidya Chavan had advised Suman on how to go about the contest. “We told her that in a politician’s life, the entire family is indirectly exposed to politics,” said Chavan. “She already knows the volunteers and the voters. When political issues are discussed, she hears and the information is all there, somewhere in her mind.” Suman is seen as facing no competition.
Trupti is pitted against former CM Rane, now with the Congress, and the AIMIM in a constituency with a 30 per cent Muslim population.
During her husband’s lifetime, Trupti had refused several offers to join the Sena’s women’s wing. “I had quit my job in the admin department of Raheja College to look after my daughter, Yajya. I thought that not both parents should be involved in politics,” said Trupti, who had a love marriage with Prakash Sawant, 30 years her senior.
After he died, she got a call from the Thackeray residence in Bandra East. Uddhav Thackeray asked her to prepare to contest. The argument, once again, was her husband’s unfulfilled dreams. Trupti says Rashmi Thackeray, Uddhav’s wife, helped her “like a sister” to overcome her grief and prepare.
“Women in such cases always need one strong political mentor. In Trupti’s case, Rashmi Thackeray shaped her,” said Neelam Gorhe, Shiv Sena leader.
After the election, Trupti spent some time with her eight-year-old daughter before going to her husband’s office, then took break for a relative’s wedding in Solapur.