The political landscape in Maharashtra’s Baramati is heating up as Sunetra Pawar, wife of Deputy Choief Minister Ajit Pawar, contemplates a potential face-off against sitting Member of Parliament Supriya Sule in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, according to our official sources. This development has worked to boost fresh energy into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) long-standing ambition to make inroads into this Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) bastion.
Baramati, historically under the unwavering sway of Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule, has consistently eluded the BJP’s grasp. However, the defection of former NCP MLA Ashok Tekawade in May, from Purandar to the BJP has provided the party with a newfound vigor in this electoral stronghold. Purandar is one of the Assembly segments encompassed within the Baramati Lok Sabha seat, which Supriya Sule currently represents.
Ashok Tekawade, a pivotal figure within the NCP machinery in Baramati, forged close ties with Ajit Pawar dating back to 1989 when they were both part of the Congress party. In the following year, Tekawade assumed the role of an office-bearer in the Youth Congress’ Pune district unit, further cementing his association with Ajit Pawar.
The recent political shift saw Ajit Pawar aligning himself with the BJP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. This realignment has fueled anticipation among NCP workers, who now foresee a tantalizing contest between two factions of the Pawar family on their home turf, Baramati, in the impending Lok Sabha polls.
Despite the BJP’s repeated attempts, Baramati has steadfastly remained loyal to the Pawar family. In preparation for the 2024 elections, the BJP has intensified its focus on the Baramati Lok Sabha seat, with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dedicating three days to fortify the party’s presence in the region in the previous year.
Ajit Pawar, following his departure from the NCP, has been strategically positioning his son and wife in various political events within Baramati. Parth and Jay, Ajit’s two sons, along with his wife Sunetra, have made frequent visits to their hometown, sparking speculation among local NCP members that one of Ajit Pawar’s family members may be fielded as a candidate against the incumbent MP, Supriya Sule, in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Rumors intensified after Ajit Pawar’s participation in a roadshow in Baramati, where it was suggested that either his son Parth or wife Sunetra Pawar could emerge as contenders for the Baramati seat.
In response to queries from the media regarding the possibility of a member of the Ajit Pawar family challenging her, Supriya Sule stated, “I have contested Lok Sabha elections from Baramati thrice. Each time, there was someone in opposition, and in democracy, it is evident that opposition parties will participate. We should focus on our efforts.”
While Baramati was, until recently, under the BJP’s purview as per a seat-sharing agreement with the Shiv Sena, the party may now consider conceding the seat to the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP in the forthcoming polls scheduled for April-May next year.
Senior NCP leaders with affiliations to Ajit Pawar’s camp express optimism about the maintenance of cordial relations within the Pawar family despite the party’s internal schism. However, they acknowledge that if the BJP pressures Ajit Pawar to nominate a family member as a candidate, it could pose a challenging dilemma for him.
A close associate of the Pawar family from the NCP remarked, “Ajit Pawar is deeply committed to his son Parth’s political career and will strive to secure his election from an appropriate Lok Sabha constituency.”
A state-level BJP leader confirmed, “The BJP acknowledges that it lacks a formidable candidate in Baramati. We would prefer to cede the seat to Ajit Pawar within our alliance. The final decision regarding the candidate will rest with Ajit Pawar, but rest assured, the BJP will vigorously campaign for victory regardless of the chosen candidate.”
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