There will be an effort to correct the perception, says Supriya Sule
“I don’t need to do these rallies. I’ll win,” asserts a confident Supriya Sule, amid rallies and meetings here earlier this week. The daughter of Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar is the sitting MP and is contesting election from her father’s pocket borough for the second time.
In this prosperous constituency, the contest is indeed one-sided. Mr. Pawar vacated his seat for his daughter in 2009 and she won by a margin of over 3.37 lakh votes. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has fielded Mahadev Jankar of the Rashtriya Samaj Party in a bid to attract Dalit votes. Former IPS officer Suresh Khopade is the Aam Admi Party’s candidate.
Her party, however, is heading into this election battling allegations of corruption, centred around the multi-crore irrigation scam in Maharashtra. The controversy led to the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar in 2012. He is Sharad Pawar’s nephew and her cousin.
“These are baseless allegations. We are here to work for the people. As long as people get their rights, we don’t have to worry about what is said about us,” says Ms. Sule.
However, she admits that the party has had to pay a price for the arrogance of its leaders. “We have paid a price for the public perception that we are arrogant. There will definitely be an effort to correct it,” Ms. Sule told The Hindu.
Once again Mr. Ajit Pawar is at the centre of charges of arrogance. During the drought in Maharashtra in 2013 he had asked, “Should I urinate in the dams to get you water?” This continues to be fodder for the Opposition. In his first rally in western Maharashtra, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi reminded people, “When you go to vote, just remember (Ajit Pawar’s) arrogance and see if your conscience lets you vote for them (NCP),” he said.
“My brother has repented what he said,” Ms. Sule says. She also deflects prickly questions on reports of Mr. Ajit Pawar’s differences with Mr. Sharad Pawar and his unhappiness with Ms. Sule’s entry into politics. Ms. Sule says she is not interested in State politics, her cousin’s turf. “I am very happy in Parliament. I love the chaos and debates, and I soak in everything like a sponge,” she states.
On her campaign, Ms. Sule is repeatedly asked about the uneasy equation between the NCP and its ally, the Congress. Mr. Sharad Pawar’s contradictory statements about Mr. Modi have left people wondering whether the NCP will part with the Congress after the polls. “We will come back together to ask for your blessings for the Assembly elections in October,” reassures Congress minister Harshavardhan Patil, who is accompanying Ms. Sule.
Ms. Sule accepts that there have been differences between two parties. “It is wiser for both of us to hang in there. If we separate, we will only divide each other’s votes,” she points out.
In the villages across the constituency, people talk about how Ms. Sule has changed in the last five years. “When she came asking for our votes last time, she couldn’t even talk Marathi properly,” a former gram panchayat member, said. “We voted for her because she’s Saheb’s (Sharad Pawar’s) daughter, and Dada’s (Ajit Pawar’s) sister,” he said.
Before coming into active political life, Ms. Sule had lived in the U.S., Singapore and Indonesia. Now, she straddles three different worlds: her home in South Bombay where she lives with her husband and two children, her workplace in Delhi, and her constituency. Asked if she was happy with her work in Baramati, she says, “I am a hungry person. I always want to do more. I aspire for these people the life that I have led. That is my dream for the next five years.”
As another hectic day of campaigning comes to an end, another facet of her life intervenes. She answers a call from her daughter Revati in Mumbai, saying she has a surprise gift waiting for her at home. “Is it the Swatch watch I’ve been dreaming of,” asks the indulgent mother.