Drawing a parallel between Amethi and Baramati is a tough task. Both districts, separated by a distance of 1,500 km, have very different geographical, cultural, and economic dynamics.
The only common factor between both is that, politically, they have dominated by India’s most powerful political dynasties. Amethi has sent many members of Nehru Gandhi family to lower house of parliament since the 1980s while Amravati has produced the same for Pawar family. Sanjay Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi- four members of Nehru Gandhi family have been elected from the constituency so far.
Similarly, Baramati has elected a member of the Pawar family in Maharashtra assembly election since 1967. It was the constituency of Sharad Pawar till 1990 and since then held by Ajit Pawar, who is candidate this time in 2019 too. Baramati Lok Sabha constituency has also only elected Pawar family members since 1980.
In an epic victory, Smriti Irani, the firebrand BJP leader dethroned Rahul Gandhi from his family bastion. She won the constituency with more than 50,000 votes. BJP is hoping for a similar debacle for Pawar family in Baramati constituency in the October 21 assembly polls. “If Smriti Irani can trounce Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, why can’t Gopichand Padalkar (the BJP candidate) do the same to Ajit Pawar in Baramati?” said the BJP worker.
Pawar family usually does not campaign in Baramati constituency and still, no party has been able to challenge their domination. “They are like a school student who works hard all through the year and takes a break just before the examination, in a show of confidence,” said an NCP worker.
However, the rise of BJP has challenged the hegemony of NCP in the constituency. In Lok Sabha elections, the percentage difference between the number of votes bagged by NCP and opposition has reduced from 45 in 2009 to less than 15 in 2019.
Fadnavis is also keen to snatch the family bastion of the Pawars and bring a change there. He campaigned in the constituency and huge crowd came to attend the rally. The agricultural reforms and the economic development in the state have made Fadnavis very popular among the locals. He has already held two political rallies in the constituencies and received huge support. Amit Shah, the destroyer of dynasties who snatched many family held bastions in 2019 general election, is also scheduled to address a rally in the Baramati constituency.
BJP has chosen its candidate with the caste factor of the constituency in mind. Gopinchand Padalkar, the candidate of BJP, belongs to Dhangar caste, which constitutes the second-largest population (after Maratha) in the constituency. With the combination of caste solidarity and development plank, BJP plans to dethrone the Pawars from Baramati.
Sharad Pawar’s grandnephew and Ajit Pawar’s son, Parth Pawar faced an embarrassing defeat from Maval in the Lok Sabha election. He lost by more than 2 lakh votes despite the fact that Pawar family has thrown full weight after him because he is expected to succeed the party patriarch. Parth was first the candidate from Pawar family to have lost an election delivering a major jolt to the NCP patriarch.
The tally of NCP was reduced to 41 in 2014 assembly election from 62 in 2009. The party also faced setback in Maharashtra local election. The corruption charges on Pawar family significantly dented their popularity.
In August this year, The Bombay High Court has asked Mumbai police’s Economic Offences Wing to register FIR against Ajit Pawar and 70 other in Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam. The bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and S K Shinde told EOW to register the FIR within five days.
The case includes NCP leader Jayant Patil and senior cooperative bank officials from 34 districts in the state who were directly or indirectly related to NCP. These individuals caused a loss worth a whopping 1,000 crore rupees to MSCB from 2007 to 2011.
The daughter of Sharad Pawar-Supriya Sule and his son in law were accused to held 21.97 per cent stake in Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL) from 2002 to 2004. “All the necessary permission from the government for Lavasa was received in this period. After that, both of them quietly sold off their stakes,” said Ms. Suniti of the National Alliance of People’s Movement.
A former IPS officer and practicing lawyer Yogesh Pratap Singh alleged that “the former Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ajit Pawar, who was then Irrigation Minister, and Chairman of the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation, had misused his official powers, awarding 348 acres (141 hectares) of land at throwaway prices to the Lake City Corporation which was renamed Lavasa Corporation, The land was awarded at a paltry monthly rent of Rs. 23,000, of which share of 20.81 per cent was held by Mr. Sharad Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule, and her husband Sadanand Sule.”
In 2010, IPL matches were tax exempted due to Sharad Pawar’s close association with BCCI. He had a long stint at BCCI, Mumbai Cricket Association and controlled the richest sports body in the country for decades.
An FIR against Ajit Pawar by Economic offences wing, popularity of Devendra Fadnavis among electorates, and selection of right candidate from right could help BJP to dethrone the Pawar family from its bastion at Baramati. The plummeting popularity of the NCP patriarch has jeopardised the Pawar family’s bastion and may lead to their extinction from politics soon enough.