Two days before campaigning for the third phase is to end, the BJP held a major rally in Baramati town, the home turf of the Sharad Pawar family, to tell voters that it was a serious contender for the seat and that it is not in any secret understanding to let Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule win for the third consecutive time.
Addressing a packed ground, BJP president Amit Shah said the party had made a mistake in the last elections by not fielding a candidate of their own, and instead of supporting a candidate of another party. “This mistake has been corrected so voters must also not make the mistake of re-electing the NCP candidate,” he said.
Baramati was one of the seven seats in Maharashtra that the BJP failed to win in the 2014 elections. This time, the party had made its intention clear quite early. Shah, in interaction with party workers in Pune earlier this year, had identified Baramati as one of the seats the party wanted to win.
However, the BJP’s enthusiasm regarding Baramati was not reflected in its campaign. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted Sharad Pawar at every rally he addressed in Maharashtra, he did not attend any event in Baramati. In fact, he was scheduled to address a rally in Baramati constituency, outside Baramati town, but the event was cancelled. Except for Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, no high-profile BJP leader campaigned in Baramati before Shah reached there on Friday.
Shah told the voters that he too had heard rumours that BJP had got into a secret agreement with NCP for Baramati. “I have come here to clear such apprehensions, to prove that those rumours were wrong. The BJP is very confident of winning Baramati seat,” he said.
He said other leaders had so far not come to Baramati because Fadnavis was running a very effective campaign in the state. Targeting the Pawars, he said the family was only concerned about securing its own interests and was not bothered about the country’s development.
“They are busy getting their own family secured in politics. They have no interest in the nation’s development… The Prime Minister has started a big effort to cleanse Indian democracy of dynastic politics. If we want welfare of Maharashtra, then it should start by bringing change in Baramati,” he said.
The BJP’s candidate from Baramati is Kanchan Kul, whose husband and mother-in-law are in active politics. In 2014, the party had supported Mahadev Jagannath Jankar, who runs a regional party called Rashtriya Samaj Paksha. Jankar lost to Sule but was accommodated in the state cabinet after getting elected to the legislative council.
Shah accused Pawar of not doing enough for Baramati or for Maharashtra despite being in power for several years both at the state level and at the Centre.
“The industry, cooperative, dairy and agriculture sectors in Maharashtra had slided down when Pawar was in power,” he claimed. “The country was importing raw sugar when Pawar was Union agriculture minister but now this import has been stopped,” he said.
The BJP chief said Modi deserved a second term for the security of the country. “The previous governments tolerated terrorist attacks but the Modi government has taken strong action to eliminate terrorism. The tragedy is that the Opposition has been asking proof of the air-strikes on terrorist camps… Those raising doubts on armed forces should not forget that the armed forces are of the country and not of any political party,” he said.
He also criticised the Opposition’s stand on the issue of illegal immigrants, saying Pawar and Congress president Rahul Gandhi want that these illegal immigrants continue to stay in the country. “But we are committing to sending back each and every illegal immigrant to their respective countries,” he said.
Shah also took a dig at Rahul for declaring that Congress would launch a programme for poverty alleviation. “Five generations of Nehru-Gandhi family and 55 years in power… the Congress has been promising the same thing,” he said.