Everwhere she goes,Pankaja Munde is being told that the Parli Assembly constituency is hers for certain. After all,not only is her father,Member of Parliament Gopinath Munde,a native of Parli,but he also won the Beed Lok Sabha seat polling a massive 5,53,000-odd votes this year. But the 30-year-old who last fought an election while in college in Mumbai apparently does not want to take it for granted.
I dont want to appear overconfident, she says,amid a gruelling round of campaigning,walking through slushy roads in villages,making speech after speech to groups of villagers,mostly farmers families belonging to the Banjara community that the Mundes belong to.
I dont understand caste politics, she says,quite simply. She is all for affirmative action youd give a malnourished child more attention than a healthy child but believes there are enough local issues to address without having to seek votes based on caste or community.
She appeals to the women in the villages where she is conducting an 8 am to 8 pm campaign every day,having covered 80 of the 168 villages in her constituency. Rural women vote on emotional issues,things that they connect with,not state or central-level plans or schemes. She talks of price rise,crop insurance,repeatedly underlines that she spent 17 years through school and college in Parli,and,therefore,understands local concerns.
But more than anything else,she invokes the support her father commands here. It will be a vote for Mundeji, she says at every village meeting. You gave him a big Lok Sabha victory four months ago. I hope you will come out to vote for him once again.
Parli is 60 per cent rural,the town itself a sleepy clutch of simple homesteads,a few apartment blocks and neither roads nor drains worth a mention for the 1 lakh people who call it home. The Parli thermal power plant set up in 1970 brought a flush of jobs and,from there,a small tertiary sector to the town,but its growth has been stunted. One of the 12 jyotirlinga temples to Shiva is located in Parli Vaijnath,but despite several thousand visitors every year,a tourism industry is non-existent.
The BJP has taken control of the municipality here only two years ago, she says. I hope to be able to transform it into one of Maharashtras best looking cities in the next five years. People should say this is Mundejis city. From roads and gardens to gymnasia and swimming pools,she has it all planned out.
Mother of a seven-year-old boy who is now with her in-laws in Pune,Pankaja says she is actually quite homely and was not considering an active career in politics until very recently. I was not interested in anything more than campaigning for my father. This was on public demand, she says of her candidature,which she says was decided upon by the party,not my father. Cousin Dhananjay may have been expecting the ticket,having been more active in development work in Parli,but both names came up and the party decided, she says.
The biggest influence,especially on her thinking,has been uncle Pramod Mahajan,she says,but its her fathers simple style she has always looked up to. While she likes to read,shes neither fond of fiction nor really comfortable with English literature,she says. I enjoy reading Marathi historical works, she says and Id like to write someday.