Victory a formality in Baramati, focus on margin

Victory a formality in Baramati, focus on margin

The issue in this prestigious constituency in Western Maharashtra is not who will win but by what margin will sitting MP Supriya Sule emerge victorious for the second successive term.

The daughter of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar won by a massive 3.6 lakh margin in 2009 and seeks to improve it this time around.

Baramati is the family stronghold of the Pawars ever since the Maratha strongman won the Baramati Assembly seat in 1967. Since then, till 2009, the clan has been winning both the Baramati Assembly and Lok Sabha (LS) elections (Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar contested for LS and won once).

Pawar gave up the seat to daughter Supriya, 44, in 2009. Nobody from the Pawar family has so far lost an election in Baramati. While Pawar, who was chief minister four times, won Lok Sabha seat six times, Ajit and Supriya Sule have won it once each.

Even the opposition seems to be running away from facing the heat of the near-unbeatable margin. The major parties BJP, Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are not contesting.

No major leader from any opposition party has campaigned in Baramati so far, nor has BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi visited the seat. The BJP-Shiv Sena have left it to their partner Rashtriya Samaj Paksha’s Mahadev Jankar to fight it out.

The Aam Aadmi Party is contesting but does not seem to be in contention–it has fielded retired IPS officer Suresh Khopade–who is running out of volunteers to help him.

Interestingly, all 6 MLAs of Baramati LS constituency belong to Pawar’s Maratha community but four of them, including two from the Congress, are strongly opposed to Pawar.

Defeat in the 2011 by-election of Khadakwasla candidate shook the party, especially as Sule had taken charge of the campaign. This has raised some sort of hope in rival candidates. At the forefront of a host of her party’s welfare initiatives and campaigns, Sule is focussing on women and youth and issues such as sustainable development, environment, education and disability.

All the three candidates who spoke to Deccan Herald were confident of winning, though the likely winner was surprisingly cautious. “I am not overconfident. I am cautiously optimistic. The work that our family has done should hold me in good stead,” Sule said. 

Jankar feels he has gained support not just of his shepherd community which is in large number but also the farmers who, he says are fed up with the Pawar clan for lack of irrigation facility.

“People are craving for change. They want someone who will focus on development of the entire constituency and not just Baramati city,” says Jankar.

“I will be a giant killer. I can tell you that people are in for a surprise.” While Jankar is popular among farmers and backwards, AAP candidate Khopade is banking on the work he did when he was serving in Baramati. The constituency has about 18 lakh voters with Marathas in majority with 6.5 lakh votes, backwards are about 4.5lakh, and rest minorities and SC, STs.

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