Constituency Watch: The great family divide splits Baramati as 'Bhabhi-Nanad' battle for uncle-nephew supremacy

National |  IANS  | Published :

Pune (Maharashtra), May 2 (IANS) After ruling the roost for nearly six decades in Baramati, NCP(SP) President, Sharad Pawar is facing the first major challenge to his supremacy in state politics, that too, from within the family, through his nephew Ajit Pawar.

The NCP(SP) Working President Supriya Sule (54) is locked in a rare battle with Sunetra A Pawar (61), the wife of her cousin brother and rival NCP President Ajit Pawar.

Considered an ideal, close-knit family, with politics always kept at the doorstep, an unusual and bitter fight between the Pawar ‘bhabhi-nanad’ slugging it out in the summer heat for the Baramati Lok Sabha seat, is spilling onto the streets.

The average Baramati voter is torn between loyalty to the uncle, Sharad Pawar, 83, who founded the (undivided) NCP in 1999, and his nephew Ajit Pawar who split the party in July 2023 to walk out and join the ‘enemy’, ideologically shunned by almost the entire Pawar clan.

There are instances of entire families of the local population living divided in their homes, with an invisible ‘Sharad Pawar’ or ‘Ajit Pawar’ looming in the shadows, tugging at their heart-strings for votes, catapulting Baramati among the top 10 most watched and unpredictable Lok Sabha constituencies in the 2024 elections.

In fact, the first battle for conquering Baramati started when Ajit Pawar split the (undivided) NCP to join the ruling Mahayuti government of Shiv Sena-BJP as a second Deputy Chief Minister, holding the post for a record 6th time, just a rung below his unabashed ambition to be the Chief Minister.

A NCP(SP) leader explained how Ajit Pawar had joined the two-man regime headed by BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis in November 2019 and had unceremoniously crashed in barely 80 hours, “but thereafter Pawar Saheb, Supriya tai, the entire family and the party had forgiven him”, but warned that this time “there is deep angst against Ajit Pawar and nobody will show mercy.”

On the other hand, an Ajit Pawar supporter claims that “Dada (elder brother) was wronged many times, the party lost opportunities to make him the CM, and faced humiliation on several occasions”, and it's now up to the people of Baramati to give him justice.

Conscious of what is in store in ‘the big fight for supremacy’, Ajit Pawar has launched a campaign for his wife utilising the age-old ingredients of “saam, daam, dand, bhed (persuade, tempt, punish, secret).”

Ajit Pawar gently goaded the people to vote with their heads and not with their hearts and avoid sentiments for Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya. Then he made emotional appeals to give an opportunity to a new family member Sunetra, as they had done with Sharad Pawar and Supriya in the past.

Later, he sternly warned of repercussions like not releasing development funds if they failed to vote for his wife. Ajit Pawar subsequently attempted ideological schisms by securing the support of certain organisations that were earlier treated as persona-non-grata, by him and his uncle.

Earlier, Ajit Pawar took rude potshots at his 83-year-old uncle, virtually pushing him to the ‘margdarshak mandal’, and exploiting a stray ‘outsider’ remark of Sharad Pawar, that had few takers in the constituency.

However, an unruffled Sharad Pawar said that he is “fit, fine and healthy” and had many more years to serve the people, and urged the masses to give an opportunity for a 4th Lok Sabha term to Supriya, rather than some ‘outsider’ or ‘opportunists’.

More recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Pune and spoke of a ‘bhatakti atma (wandering soul)’ which left Ajit Pawar spooked and wondering who was the PM actually referring to, and then vowed to ask him to identify the ‘unholy ghost’ he had in mind.

As far as the ordinary Baramatikar is concerned, all normal electoral issues are swept to the sidewalk and it's all about the election season’s biggest battle royale between the daughter and daughter-in-law that is the talk of the town, day and night…in Sharad Pawar’s prosperous hometown.

Supriya is making her 4th bid for the LS as compared to Sunetra trying her maiden attempt for Baramati which comprises 6 Assembly constituencies – Baramati, Daund, Purandar, Indapur, Bhor and Khadakwasla – of which two are held by NCP (including 7-time MLA Ajit Pawar), two with ally BJP and two with the Congress.

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