On Sunday, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar held a farmers’ rally at Someshwarnagar in Baramati constituency, which he has been representing for two decades now. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders said this was Pawar’s first visit to his constituency — a family stronghold where NCP chief Sharad Pawar never lost an election in over four decades of his political career — in connection with the ensuing Assembly elections.
While Ajit Pawar seemed to be least worried about the result in Baramati, the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh — led by Mahadeo Jankar — promises to make things difficult for him. It has decided to go “all-out” against Ajit Pawar, taking the charges against him, especially in connection with irrigation projects, to the voters.
Jankar Sunday said his party wanted to contest the Baramati seat, for which a list of candidates had been prepared. “We have demanded 14 seats from Shiv Sena and BJP. At the most, we will scale down our demands to 10, but we will not come down even one seat below that,” said Jankar. “If Sena-BJP is not offering us the number of seats we want, we will be free to contest on our own,” said Jankar.
However, though the Baramati seat figures high on the RSP’s priority list, Jankar said the party would campaign for the alliance candidate even if the seat did not come to its kitty.
During the Lok Sabha elections, he said, the RSP proved what it was capable of. “We did exceedingly well in all the Assembly seats in Baramati Parliamentary constituency. We trailed only in Baramati Assembly seat, but that is because we had concentrated hard on other Assembly seats,” he said.
In the Lok Sabha polls, Jankar lost to Supriya Sule, daughter of Sharad Pawar, by a margin of 70,000 votes. The margin was considerably low compared to the 2009 elections, when Sule had won by 3.25 lakh votes. In fact, Sule was trailing behind Jankar in the initial rounds of counting. So shocked was the NCP that Sule remained out of bounds for the media for days after the results and refused to discuss her reduced victory margin.
Spurred by the party’s good performance, Jankar has now decided to go “all out” in this election. Close associates said Jankar would be camping in Baramati and personally meet the voters to “send out a strong signal” in the constituency. “Jankar always relies on giving a personal touch to his campaign and this is the reason why voters get drawn towards him. And if he does this in Baramati this time, Ajit Pawar is in for some hard time,” said Sandeep Chopade, RSP’s Pune district president.
“From (Ajit) Pawar’s controversial utterances to charges related to irrigation projects, we will place them all before the voters,” said Chopade.
However, the Ajit Pawar camp scoffs at any bid to capture the Baramati bastion. “In the Lok Sabha elections, NCP trailed in other Assembly segments but not in Baramati. We had a massive lead of 90,000 here… We don’t think these voters can be swayed by anybody,” said Sambhaji Holkar, NCP’s Baramati taluka chief.
“The Deputy CM is visiting Baramati for the first time in many days to interact with voters. We, the workers, are enough to ensure his victory. He need not even campaign here,” said Holkar. In 2009, Ajit Pawar had faced Shiv Sena’s Rajendra Kale. The Sena is likely to stake claim to the seat again, but Jankar said the seat should logically be given to the RSP because of its Lok Sabha poll performance.
Meanwhile, the Swabhmani Shetkari Sanghatana led by Raju Shetti too wants to contest from Baramati. “We also want to field our candidate from Baramati, besides Daund. But if Jankar’s party is fielding its candidate, we will not field our candidate. Instead, we will campaign for them,” said Shetti.