Precarious Pawars: Has PM Modi tipped scales in favour of BJP in Baramati?
Modi took fight to the Pawar stronghold in Baramathi where the family is already facing mass scale anger. Has he tipped the scales in favour of the BJP?
Baramati: While it is widely believed that former deputy CM Ajit Pawar is set to win from his hometown, in the Baramati constituency, PM Narendra Modi's rally, the Dhangar reservation issue and prevailing water issues of twenty two drought prone villages are likely to hit him hard.
Many people who attended the rally along with BJP leaders, said that Modi's rally, which was held there on Thursday is likely to have an impact on the outcome of the constituency.
“I feel that the people of Baramati are fighting a second battle of independence. The country at the centre has got freedom but the people in Baramati are still being treated like slaves,” Modi said in a sharp attack on NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Baramati on Thursday. Modi is the only national leader to address a rally in Baramati since 1980 when Former prime minister Indira Gandhi spoke there after Pawar raised the banner of revolt within Congress.
Modi further said that Pawar considered himself a ‘Shahenshaha’ and ‘Maharaja’, who was not accountable to the people of the state. “The Dhangar community has always stood behind Pawar but he has backstabbed them,” he thundered.
The BJP seems to have strategically fielded Balasaheb Gawde, a Dhangar community leader from the Baramati assembly constituency to take on the senior NCP leader and his nephew, former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Gawde was actively involved in the Dhangar reservation issue, which saw an escalation of violent protests over the state government's decision to grant 16 percent reservation in jobs and education to the Marathwada community.
The Dhangar (shepherd community) reservation issue in fact, may just tip the scales against Pawar.
The Dhangars had made Baramati, the hometown of Sharad Pawar, the epicentre of their agitation in July, demanding ST category reservation status for the community. There is a strong sentiment among the community that Sharad Pawar has played with the community’s feelings for more than two decades and has kept the issue pending.
BJP leaders are hoping that the Prime Minister's rally will boost their candidates chances in the Pune and Satara districts.
Pawar is seeking a fifth term in the state assembly from his family pocket borough in Pune district, which they have represented since 1967. Ajit Pawar was first elected to the state assembly from there in 1995 as a Congress candidate and then as an NCP candidate in 1999 and 2004.
In 2009, he won with a huge margin of over one lakh votes from the constituency.
But Rastriya Samaj Paksh president Mahadev Jankar, a prominent Dhangar leader, has a strong base in the region which is also likely to dent the NCP bastion.
Recently, Jankar had claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi canceled his plan to address a rally in Baramati during the Lok Sabha election following a request from NCP president Sharad Pawar.
“Had Modi addressed a rally in Baramati during the Lok Sabha election, I could have easily defeated Supriya Sule (Sharad Pawar's daughter),” Jankar had said. He had contested the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency in May and had given Sule a tough fight.
Sule’s margin of victory dipped to 69,000 votes in 2014 from 3.4 lakhs in 2009.
Most of the people, who attended Modi's rally, said that the rally would have a significant impact on the outcome of the constituency. “Many of us feel that Pawars have looted the people and the state as well,” said Ajit Atole, a resident of Gujbawi village in Baramati, who had attended the rally.
Another resident said that after the Modi rally, nobody could predict the outcome of this constituency.
Machindra Wagh, a resident of Sangvi village in Baramati said that the people were fed up with the way the Pawar family had been functioning in the constituency. “The Dhangar community is also upset with them for not resolving their reservation issue. If the community votes en bloc against Pawar, then he will surely lose the election,” he said.
“Issues like toll, water scarcity in 22 drought prone villages will go against the Pawar this time. Pawars have not yet solved the water issue of these villages. Also, the farmers are angry with the Pawar because their land had been taken for MIDC projects but have been compensated with little amount,” said a farmer, requesting anonymity.
However, Ajit Pawar supporters claim that the Modi rally will not have any impact on the Baramati constituency.
“Half of the people who attended the rally today are the NCP activists who came to hear Modi out of curiosity. Pawar family controls the cooperative institutions and automobile industries in the constituency, which has provided huge employment to many people. These people will always vote for Pawar and there is no doubt that he will win by a huge margin,” said a staunch Pawar supporter, who also claimed to be an officer bearer of the Baramati NCP youth wing.
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