Earlier this week, Shiv Sena’s Maval candidate Shrirang Barne campaigned in Kasarwadi area, meeting local residents, including the likes of Landes and Landges, who are better known as gaonwallahs or the sons of soil.
Right from Dapodi to Lonavala, there are many families of gaonwallahs, and the community has over 1.5 lakh members. Barne himself is a ‘gaonwallah’ from Thergaon area, where one finds several families with the same surname. The gaonwallahs have a reputation of standing behind their community members.
More than half of the corporators of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation belong to the community, as do MLAs Laxman Jagtap of Chinchwad and Mahesh Landge of Bhosari. Click here for more election news
The community includes the Kates of Dapodi and Pimple Saudagar, Phuges of Phugewadi, Dhores and Shitoles of Sangvi, Jagtaps of Pimple Gurav, Sathe, Nandgude and Chandgude of Pimple Nilakh, Wagheres of Pimprigaon, Nakhates of Rahatni, Tapkirs, Nade, Kale of Kalewadi, Gujar and Barnes of Thergaon, Landes and Landges of Kasarwadi, Kalates, Kaspate and Vinode of Wakad, Kalbhors and Pandharkars of Kalbhornagar and Akurdi, Dattir-Patils of Mohannagar, Bhoir, Chinchwade, Gawde, Nimbalkar of Chinchwad and nearby areas, Dabhabhes and Bhegdes of Talegaon, Thakars of Pavana area, Mores and Kalokhes of Dehu, Palkars, Khaldes, Satkars and Shindes of the Maval region.
“… There is an understanding among us to support our community member as it becomes easy for us to seek redressal for our grievances …,” says Anita Landge, a member of the community who heads a self-help group.
Though their loyalty is currently divided between the NCP and the Sena, members of the community believe that most of them will vote for Barne. “Our community is proud of Appa Barne, who represents us in Parliament. He has been at our marriages and funerals and has helped us with our problems,” says Anita Landge.
Maruti Bhapkar, a former Sena member, says NCP also has a good support among the gaonwallahs in Maval area. “Though gaonwallahs have a tendency to vote en masse, I think this time the votes may be divided, but Barne will still get the majority of votes,” says Bhapkar. He claims this is because a section of the BJP, led by Jagtap, is not happy with Barne.
The Sena candidate’s supporters, meanwhile, say they are relying on the votes of their bhavki gavki (friends and relatives). “They certainly give an edge to Barne. Pimpri and Chinchwad assembly areas have 8 lakh voters, of which 80,000 plus are gaonwallahs. Similarly, 60 per cent of Maval region has gaonwallahs, numbering around one lakh,” says Yogesh Babar, president of Pimpri-Chinchwad Sena unit. “Barne is a bhumi putra and therefore, he automatically gets the community’s support.”
Barne, however, plays down the gaonwallah factor. “I will get votes from a cross-section of society. It is true that I am a gaonwallah myself and have wide acceptability among the community, but people from all communities appreciate my work. I have tried to touch everyone’s life. So, I will get votes from all sections and corners,” he says.
NCP leaders, however, say that the community doesn’t always vote for the same candidate. “It is wrong to say that gaonwallahs will vote in the same direction. If such was the case, then leaders like Azam Pansare and Gajanan Babar would not have become corporators or MPs…It is a wrong notion…,” says Sanjog Waghere, president of NCP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit.
Babar, a former Lok Sabha MP, agrees with this line of thought, “Barne will not get all the votes of the community, but will get a majority of them as NCP also has strong community leaders.” Another NCP leader, Yogesh Behl, credits party candidate Parth Pawar’s father and grandfather, Ajit Pawar and
Sharad Pawar, for being responsible for Pimpri-Chinchwad’s development.
“The sons of soil have become big shots in Pimpri-Chinchwad because of the Pawar family. Though they are in different parties, they know who ensured their success. And therefore, the community will not forget the contribution of the family… the gaonwallahs will certainly support Parth,” he says.