Marathi TV 'Home Minister', maverick politician in fray

Maharashtra assembly poll: Its good time for migrants


In the show “Home Minister,” which has won the highest approval ratings amongst Marathi television viewers, he would present house wives with prizes for performing simple tasks. For winning elections, Bandekar perhaps need to present promises and the determination to fulfil them, a task he has taken upon himself in the Maharashtra elections.

Bandekar's door knockings happen now at the Mahim constituency, where he is contesting the October 13 elections as a Shiv Sena candidate. Replacing a devoted sainik, Sada Sarvankar, as the Sena's preferred candidate only underlines the pressure to win, hardly easy thing even for a TV celebrity, given that Sarvankar has switched his allegiance to the Congress to fight him.

According to Bandekar, the change from TV presenter to a politician will not be a difficult one, especially if his attempt to enter the Assembly turns out to be successful. A ‘sainik’ from his childhood, he had no problems in determining the party. Like other Marathi-dominated constituencies, Mahim has a tricky triangular contest, as the MNS has also fielded its candidate: Nitin Sardesai, leaving all the major parties to fight for the Marathi vote.

At Wani constituency, 42-year-old Babytai Bais has no simple task at hand. A replacement for Kalawati Bandurkar, a fellow farming widow praised by Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Bais carries the weight of expectation of a rural constituency with maximum suicides of destitute farmers.

Bandurkar withdrew as candidate of the Swatantra Bharat Paksha at the last minute due to ill health, but Bais doesn't prove to be a disappointment. She has promised to wean away farmers from the killer cotton ccrops and ban liquor from Yavatmal. She also wants to rehabilitate 6,000 farm widows like her.

As cotton cultivation is one of the main reasons for farmer suicides, a major poll promise for Bais is to push for a legislation reserving 30 pc land for cultivating food crops, said Kishor Tiwari, convenor of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS).

The VJAS has tied up with Rajya Sabha MP and farmers leader Sharad Joshi's Swatantra Bharat Paksha for the polls. With candle as her election symbol, Bais portrays her candidacy as "the last candle of hope" for the people of her constituency. Bais’ husband had accrued an unpaid loan of Rs 47,000 and took poison in 2007 in frustration. She has since been struggling to support her four children with the un-irrigated four acre, whilst trying to pay back the loan.

It is no surprise that 65-year-old Sureshdada Jain's name has firmer association with Jalgaon, a North Maharashtra constituency from where he had won eight times to enter the Assembly.

Jain first won the seat in 1980 as a Congress-S candidate. He may now contest as a Sena candidate, but in Jalgaon Jain's name matters more.  A minister in the Sena-BJP government in 1997, Jain featured once again in the cabinet in the NCP government in 2002. The housing scheme for 40 lakh Mumbai slum dwellers, which the Sena government approved with Jain as the housing minister, has been his famous and controversial accomplishment. He was forced to resign from the Cong-NCP ministry following the hunger strike by social activist Anna Hazare, who accused him of irregularities.

Jain responded with his own hunger strike, accusing that trusts headed by Hazare had their own bit of “irregularities.”  With a skyscraper called “Sureshdada Tower,” Jalgaon is pretty much the Jain fortress, where nothing seem to move without his consent.  

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