BARAMATI constituency, the bastion of the Pawar family, did not see any fireworks during the election campaign despite the BJP’s vow to unseat NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who is fighting for his seventh straight win from the seat.
To end the Pawar family’s hold in Baramati, from where members of the family have won both Assembly and Lok Sabha polls for decades, the BJP had roped in Dhangar community leader Gopichand Padalkar. But NCP and Pawar seemed unflustered by the BJP’s attempts. In fact, Ajit Pawar campaiged for only one day — on Saturday, the last day of the campaign.
While party chief Sharad Pawar and Baramati MP Supriya Sule didn’t hold any rallies for Pawar, his wife Sunetra, son Jay and other NCP leaders campaigned for him.
NCP district chief Sambhaji Holkar said there was no need for Pawar to campaign. “The kind of development that he has brought to Baramati will ensure that the election is a cakewalk for him.... We believe Ajit Pawar will win by a record margin of 1.5 lakh votes.”
Counting “development work Ajit Pawar has brought to Baramati, NCP’s city unit chief Imtiaz Shikilkar said, Top schools, engineering and medical colleges, smooth roads, underground drainage and electricity lines, several top industrial units, improved drinking water facilitiy...”
Pawar himself said, “I won by 90,000 votes in 2014 Assembly elections. This time, I am confident of winning by 1 lakh votes.”
NCP leaders and workers relied on corner meetings and door-to-door campaigns. “Since we had no leader to deliver speeches, we relied on contacting each and every voter,” Holkar said.
On the other hand, while BJP candidate Padalkar reached out to voters, party leaders failed to generate interest among the electorate. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and BJP state chief Chandrakant Patil were the only senior leaders to campaign for Padalkar. BJP’s Baramati unit chief Yashpal Bhosale said, “We may not win the seat, but we will put up a tough fight against Ajit Pawar.”
Bhosale said the image of Baramati projected by the NCP, that of a most developed city, is inaccurate. “Even in Baramati city, six tankers provide water daily. This shows that Ajit Pawar has failed to cater to the needs of even city residents,” he said.
According to him, drought conditions prevail throughout the year in at least 42 villages of the district. “These are basically villages in the rain-shadow area. Over the years, NCP and Ajit Pawar have made little effort to alleviate the misery of these villagers. They have neither drinking water nor water for their farms. Villagers are forced to migrate to other places in search of jobs,” he said.
He said the Fadnavis government had sanctioned Rs 250 crore to the Baramati civic body, after which it was able to carry out several development works. “The medical college was also sanctioned by the government. The NCP is falsely claiming credit.”
Even the Dhangar community in Baramati, which has a sizeable presence, has pitched its lot behind Ajit Pawar. Dhangar leader Popatrao Deokate said the community will vote for the development of Baramati. “Padalkar is an outsider, he has to first prove himself before seeking votes,” he said.
Local residents also seemed to be in favour of Pawar. Prashant Sangvi, a shopkeeper, said, “Whatever development that you see in Baramati should be credited to Ajit Pawar — water, light, underground drainage system, good roads, colleges...”