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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Supriya Sule vs Sunetra Pawar: Baramati first major electoral battle for Pawar clan rivals

Sharad Pawar's daughter and sitting MP Supriya Sule and nephew Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar have been pitted against each other by the two factions of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) from the constituency that goes to polls on May 7.
Last Updated : 04 May 2024, 12:34 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2024, 12:34 IST

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Pune: Baramati in Maharashtra's Pune district is one of the most keenly watched seats in the state in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls as it is for the first time that two members of the influential Pawar family are contesting against each other.

Sharad Pawar's daughter and sitting MP Supriya Sule and nephew Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar have been pitted against each other by the two factions of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) from the constituency that goes to polls on May 7.

This is also the first major electoral battle between the factions after the party split in July last year.

In February, the Election Commission (EC) recognised the Ajit Pawar-led faction of the NCP as the official party and granted it the party's 'clock' symbol while allotting 'Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar' as the party name for the group led by Sharad Pawar.

With the constituency gearing up for polling in the third round of the seven-phase general elections, campaigning by the candidates has intensified as winning at the hustings has become a matter of prestige for them in the home turf of the Pawars.

While Sule, a Sansad Ratna awardee, is seeking a fourth term to the Lower House of Parliament, Sunetra Pawar, who is an office-bearer of various educational and industry bodies and has been active in the social sphere of Baramati, is contesting her maiden Lok Sabha election.

The core part of the constituency comprises the rural region where voters hail mainly from an agricultural background. The fringe assembly segments under it, including Khadakwasla and areas like Hinjawadi, which houses the IT hub, Balewadi, Dhankwadi, Chandani Chowk, form its urban pockets.

Political experts feel that so far, there was a set pattern of senior Pawar or Sule contesting the Lok Sabha elections and Ajit Pawar fighting the assembly polls from Baramati.

"Now, it will be interesting to see whether the voters of Baramati will move away from this pattern. It will also be interesting to see whether Ajit Pawar is able to nullify the effect of the BJP's politics of splitting parties and the victim card played by Sharad Pawar after losing his party's name and poll symbol to the Ajit Pawar group," political analyst Abhay Deshpande said.

Pawar has been vocal against the EC's decision to give the NCP symbol and name to the Ajit Pawar group, and is reminding voters of who founded the party. Ajit Pawar, on the other hand, has been telling the electorate about the development works he carried out in the constituency and is sending a message that the politics of senior Pawar is a thing of the past and that he is the future.

Deshpande also said a narrative is being set by the BJP that the election in Baramati is not between Sunetra Pawar and Sule, but between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

"It will be interesting to see whether the people of Baramati, who have traditionally stood by Sharad Pawar in Lok Sabha elections, would accept that argument," he said.

Asked whether Prime Minister Modi's 'bhatakti atma' (wandering soul) remark targeting Sharad Pawar would go against the prospects of the Mahayuti alliance in Baramati, he said the senior Pawar, who is already playing the victim card, would definitely get advantage of that comment.

The Mahayuti alliance comprises the BJP, Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena and the NCP faction led by Ajit Pawar. It is the ruling coalition in Maharashtra with Shinde as chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar as deputy chief ministers.

"Targeting Pawar is not a new thing for the BJP. They did it in the 2019 (general) elections also. But now the situation is different as he (Pawar) is already playing the victim card and such remarks will only increase the sympathy towards him and the anger towards the BJP," Deshpande said.

Though the contest is tough in Baramati, Sule has an edge over her rival as the locals may not break the pattern that she is meant for the Lok Sabha and Ajit Pawar for the state assembly, the political analyst felt.

In the 2019 assembly polls, Ajit Pawar had won the Baramati seat by a record margin.

Both the NCP factions are not sparing any efforts to woo voters.

Sule is reaching out to them by conducting door-to-door padyatras and corner meetings while her father is holding rallies across the Baramati region. Sunetra Pawar and Ajit Pawar are also organising rallies and meetings with the message of 'bringing a change in Baramati'.

NCP-Sharadchandra Pawar election in-charge in Baramati, Sadashiv Bapu Satav, said Sule is receiving a good response in the constituency due to her track record and her efforts to bring development in the region.

"Now, voters, who were a little perplexed due to the split in the party, have also settled and know whom to side with," he said.

Expressing confidence of her win, Sule said voters will choose her based on her merit, parliamentary performance and the development she has brought in the constituency.

She said she is urging people to press the button for the 'new party symbol', which is a 'man blowing tutari', to take forward development and for a fair and equal India.

Pradip Garatkar, a senior leader of the Ajit-Pawar-led NCP, said though there is a 'good fight' in Baramati, it is Sunetra Pawar who will have the last laugh.

"The party cadre which is on the ground is of Ajit dada and, based on his work in the region, our candidate will win by at least more than a lakh votes. There is a favourable atmosphere for Sunetra vahini..." he said.

Sunetra Pawar in her campaigns has asserted that her husband Ajit Pawar's promise and Prime Minister Modi's 'guarantee' will work in the future. She is also telling people that social work is not new for her as she has been working in this sphere for the last 25 years, carrying out various works in villages and for conserving the environment.

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Published 04 May 2024, 12:34 IST

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