She has been mobilising support for NCP’s young women’s wing
Despite taking centre stage on Sunday at the 50th meeting of the party’s young women’s wing, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule denied having any ambitions of heading Maharashtra or intending to play a stronger role within the party.
For over five months, Ms. Sule has been traversing the State to mobilise support for the Rashtrawadi Yuvati Congress (RYC), brainchild of her father, Union Agriculture Minister and NCP president Sharad Pawar.
“I was asked to hold meetings by Ajitdada [Pawar] and Madhukar Pichad [State NCP president] and mobilise support,” she told journalists after the meeting.
Ms. Sule said she intended to continue contesting from the Baramati Lok Sabha seat at least till 2029, reiterating her preference for politics at the Centre.
Speaking on the occasion, the senior Pawar said the RYC was set up for women’s social empowerment and not for votes and that, given the right opportunities, women could play a major role in national development. He called on the outfit to not stop with simply holding meetings but also have a structured programme for advancement. He reiterated his support for reservation in education for the poorer sections after many girls from the RYC spoke on the issue. He called upon girls to educate themselves, become economically independent and fight for their rights. He asked women to emulate goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga. He admitted that elected representatives often fell short in their outlook on women and quoted 19th-century reformer Jyotiba Phule’s progressive views on women’s empowerment.
Mr. Pawar said people read the Ramayana with great respect but he had not understood need for Sita to do an ‘agnipariksha’ (trial by fire). He pointed out that Rama had also been in exile but no one had expected him to undergo a similar test.
The former Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar, said the party was the first to set up an organisation for young women. There was good response from other districts and there was need to focus on young men and students as well.
The meeting was attended by thousands of young women from all over the State. Nine-year-old Shivani Mhetre from Satara district took part in a padayatra on women’s issues and addressed the RYC rallies dressed up as Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Jijau.
Complaining of eve teasing and harassment faced by women, the young women demanded that karate be taught in schools to fend off molestation attempts.
Ms. Sule called on the State’s Minister for Higher Education, Rajesh Tope, and Home Minister R.R. Patil to address the issue of eve teasing and police not accepting complaints.
One woman said police were insensitive towards cases of dowry and often did not register them — worse they themselves took dowry.
Ms. Sule said more than her getting a ministerial post, it was what the women said at the meeting that was important for her. The aim of the RYC was not just political. It wanted to create fresh leadership from the grass roots. Clarifying that she did not head the women’s wing, she said it would be soon be led by a “girl who fits.”
On the NCP leadership issue, she said there was no vacancy in the party on that count.
“In politics there is nothing like a rock star,” she said in response to an observation that the event, with its choreography, music and speeches, was more like a rock concert than a political meeting. She denied that it was a branding exercise, projecting her as the star or that she was “stage-directing” the NCP ministers at the occasion.
“We needed a new cadre and the party felt the need for it. We are building an organisation from the bottom,” Ms. Sule said adding, “Ours is a democratic party, I can only request people to help.”