Malhangaon village has been a no-man’s land of sorts since the last three years. After the delimitation exercise of 2006, Malhangaon, which consists of a few hundred people, was taken out of the then Dabhadi constituency and attached to Nandgaon.
While Dabhadi itself disappeared in the process of delimitation, the people of Malhangaon were virtually left without a representative.
“The MLA from Dabhadi, Dadaji Bhuse, stopped doing any work for our village, as he knew it would not be a part of his constituency in this election,” says Malhangaon resident Dadaji Magar.
Deprived of development, the people of the village are now looking over the border, at the neighbouring Yevla constituency that is represented by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal. “A lot of work was done there by Chhaganji,” says Magar.
Malhangaon residents now have the option of electing Mr. Bhujbal’s son Pankaj. In doing so, they hope some development will find its way to their neglected village.
In his campaign, Mr. Pankaj Bhujbal not only reminds the villagers of their deprivation due to ever-changing constituencies, but also invokes his father. “Sarvangin vikaas haach ekmav dhyaas [I have made a commitment to all-round development],” he says. “We will develop Malhangaon on the lines of Yevla.”
Complementing him, a campaigner tells the villagers, “[Chhagan] Bhujbal saheb sanctioned a package of Rs.2,500 crore for the development of the region during his tenure. The name Bhujbal has become synonymous with development.”
Speaking to The Hindu on his way to his next stop — the Khalane village, which is a few kilometres away, Mr. Pankaj Bhujbal says, “There is a lot of work pending here. For instance, this region comes at the tail-end of the Haranbari dam’s distribution network. If the canal system can be extended, water can be made available for farming. The soil here is fertile.”
This area also sees over 18 hours of load-shedding. In his speech at Khalane, Mr. Pankaj Bhujbal says, “There are wider issues like electricity that need a huge fund from the State and Central governments. I promise to get as much fund from the government to address these problems.”
Apart from development work, he faces another challenge — making the transition from his urban upbringing to his rural workspace. Indeed, it was from Mumbai’s Mazgaon constituency that he contested the 2004 Assembly election. He lost to Shiv Sena’s Bala Nandgaonkar.
However, Mr. Pankaj Bhujbal believes that the transition will not be difficult. “Though the people are different, their problems are more or less similar,” he says.
“Shortage of electricity affects urban as well as rural areas. In Mumbai, the urban poor need cheap housing through the MHADA [Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority]. Here, I have promised to build gharkuls [houses] for the nomadic tribes.”
He is happy that his party and the people of his constituency have accepted him despite his urban background. “The people here speak in their own dialects,” he says, “But I speak to them in Marathi, which is also understood by all.”