On a hot summer afternoon, Satyabhama Aitanbone (68) sits under a tree beating dry tamarind pods to separate the beads from the shell. “I earn Rs 6 per kg for this,” she says. Madrika Tukaram Jadhav walks into the sprawling open space discussing food and children. A few yards away children play on, unmindful of the summer breeze. Old men, wearing turbans, holding a lathi and chewing beetle are talking about a family wedding.
The 1,200 families in this village, ancestral home of late Vilasrao Deshmukh, former CM, have nothing to debate on. Vilasrao still lives in their hearts and minds.
They are oblivious to the party’s struggle as Amit Deshmukh tries to retain the Congress hold over Latur Lok Sabha constituency where Dattatreya Bansode is pitted against BJP’s Sunil Gaikwad. The massive response to Modi’s rally has the Latur Congress worried, but it has not impacted the villagers.
Pointing to the magnificent black stone mansion — “Deshmukh Gad” (house) — Satyabhama says, “They are our mai baap. For generations we have been looked after by the family. How can we even separate ourselves from them and their politics.” Madrika nods, “This is one village which is self-sufficient. There is nothing we would want to ask. Our only regret is we have lost our saheb.”
The meticulously planned, well-maintained village complete with primary and secondary schools and degree college is a boom for the children aspiring for higher education.
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The sarpanch, Ramprasad Tapde, who runs the grocery shop, attends to his daily customers leisurely walking in and out.
Tapde says, “In Babhalgaon, nobody can even think of voting for any one other than saheb’s party.” The village with a population of 10,000, of whom 6,000 are voters, has always revered the Deshmukh family. The sarpanch says, “Amit Deshmukh also follows his father’s footsteps. The villagers of Babhalgaon are their first priority.”
Another resident, Sadhuram Dagdu Maske recalls, “What politics are we going to discuss? We are not worried about Narendra Modi or BJP. We are all part of the Deshmukh family and will do as expected by Amitsaheb and Dilipsaheb (brother of Vilasrao Deshmukh).”
Maske recalls, “We’ve lived in this village for several generations. I remember when Vilasraosaheb brought his first Yezdi for Rs 1,400. We all would push the motorbike which would start and stop abruptly… as roads were muddy. In those days, he also rode a horse. We have seen and lived those years.”
As the crowd gets bigger, most people express the same sentiments. Asked what they expected for the village in 2014 elections, Maske says, “Our saheb has done everything for us.”
After a pause, some of them say, “The only incomplete work is the installation of Vilasrao Deshmukh’s statue at his samadhi. He was laid to rest in the family land overlooking their mansion.”