The BJP is making a fresh bid to make a dent into the Pawar family’s stronghold of Baramati in the upcoming Maharashtra polls by picking holes in the NCP’s development claims.
While the BJP is highlighting water scarcity and bad condition of roads in the Baramati Assembly segment located in Pune district, the NCP, which harps on development brought by it in the constituency, is making light of the saffron challenge, saying it faces “no contest” at all.
The saffron party has pinned its hopes on Gopichand Padalkar, a Dhangar (shepherd) community leader, who faces a formidable challenge from NCP leader MLA Ajit Pawar, the former state deputy chief minister and Sharad Pawar’s nephew.
Ajit Pawar, who recently resigned as MLA, is seeking a re-election from Baramati, a prominent constituency in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra.
During the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule defeated BJP’s Kanchan Kul by over one lakh votes from the Baramati parliamentary constituency.
However, unperturbed by the Lok Sabha poll defeat, Padalkar is confident of winning the Baramati Assembly seat, claiming that a “change will come this time”.
Padalkar, who contested the Lok Sabha polls from Sangli as the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi candidate against BJP’s Sanjay Kaka Patil, joined the saffron party earlier this month.
He said after his candidature was announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, he has made Baramati his base and is reaching out to people in all 117 villages of the segment.
“A different picture is being portrayed about the development model of Baramati, but the reality is different.
Forget about the rural parts of Baramati, there are several areas in the town where people are facing water scarcity,” he claimed while talking to PTI.
Locals in the constituency have been demanding better roads, water and other infrastructure, he said.
“People here are terrified, but I am speaking to them and trying to enthuse confidence. I am sure that this time more and more people will come and vote for the BJP and a change will take place,” said Padalkar, who hails from Sangli. The Dhangar community has a sizeable vote bank in the constituency.
Referring to it, Padalkar said, “Though I am a Dhangar, I feel one should not give a caste colour to this election as people from all sections, castes are with me. This election is important from the development point of view.”
On his vision for Baramati, the BJP nominee said his main focus will to address the water issue and job creation for youth in various industrial areas of the constituency.
He also said that the NCP’s prospects will be affected because of the “internal feud” in the Pawar family. However, NCP dismissed Padalkar’s claims of lack of development in the area, saying it faces “no contest” at all in the constituency.
“There is no contest at all…the entire Maharashtra knows the kind of development Ajit Pawar has done in Baramati,” NCP’s district president Pradip Garatkar said.
He said the BJP was trying to play the “Dhangar card”, but people were with the NCP and the saffron party’s strategy “will not work”. Manoj Wagh, a teacher from Baramati, also said the NCP does not face any challenge in the constituency.
“It is a mystery why the BJP never fields a strong or local candidate against Pawars. Even if Padalkar is a Dhangar, there is a doubt that the whole community will consolidate in his favour,” he said.
The NCP has a strong base and infrastructure here, including cooperatives, industries, textiles, milk production, agro firms and educational institutes, he added.
According to some locals, the Dhangar votes will not consolidate this time in favour of Padalkar, the way it happened during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in support Rashtriya Samaj Paksh candidate Mahadev Jankar.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Sule defeated Jankar by around 69,000 votes while the 2009 parliamentary elections, she won by around three lakh votes.
There are over three lakh voters in the Baramati Assembly segment, which consists of rural as well as urban pockets, with agriculture, specially sugarcane cultivation, being the major occupation of people.
In the 2014 Assembly polls, Ajit Pawar, a six-term MLA from the NCP bastion, defeated BJP’s Prabhakar Dadaram Gawade by around 90,000 votes.
Polling for all 288 Assembly seats in the state will be held on October 21 and counting of votes will take place on October 24.-PTI news