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'Baramati is not the Pawars' property'

March 22, 2024 10:44 IST
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'If the Pawars are so powerful, then why are they scared of me?'

IMAGE: NCP-Sharad Pawar Working President Supriya Sule, right, with her sister-in-law and Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar before the split in the Nationalist Congress Party. Photograph: Supriya Sule on Instagram

Two-time Shiv Sena ex-MLA from Purandar, Vijay Shivtare, plans to throw his hat in the Baramati Lok Sabha ring, a Pawar bastion for five decades, from where the two Maratha strongmen will flex their political muscle through their proxies -- Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar and Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule.

The battle for Baramati assumes huge significance as the Mahayuti led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, NCP (Ajit Pawar) and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) believe they can end dominance of an ageing Sharad Pawar in this fortress by defeating Sule, a three-time MP from the constituency.

It is in this context that the political grapevine has it that Shivtare is entering the arena to cut into Sunetra Pawar's votes at the behest of Sharad Pawar who has controlled the state's politics from Baramati ever since he became Maharashtra's chief minister for the first time in July 1978.

Shivtare, an arch adversary of Pawar's estranged nephew Ajit, reports suggest, met the senior Pawar in Baramati at the Namo Rozgar Melava (job fair), which Ajit Pawar organised early this month to curry favour with Baramati voters.

According to the grapevine, it was during their tete-a-tete that Sharad Pawar convinced Shivtare to enter the fray.

A few days later, Shivtare went public with his decision to contest the Baramati election and ever since then the NCP (Ajit Pawar) and Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena are at loggerheads with each other.

"I want to finish the dominance of both the Pawars in Baramati. I will never become anybody's tool. I am against Sharad Pawar also," Shivtare tells Prasanna D Zore/

Are you posturing or are you really keen to contest from the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency? Why did you choose Baramati?

Because I am from Baramati; my (Vidhan Sabha) constituency (Purandar from where Shivtare has been a two-time Shiv Sena MLA in 2009 and 2014) is one of the constituencies of the Baramati Lok Sabha seat. My constituency is adjacent to the Baramati Vidhan Sabha constituency.

Is that the only reason why you want to contest from Baramati? Your opponents from the NCP (Ajit Pawar) say you are violating Mahayuti dharma by doing so?

They have violated the human being's dharma; they are highly corrupt people.

I'm fighting to protect democracy. Baramati is one of the Lok Sabha constituencies out of the 543 constituencies in India. This constituency is part of the Indian democratic system. It is not somebody's property.

Why should Baramati always elect only a Pawar? The Pawars don't work for all the six Vidhan Sabha constituencies after they get elected. They work only for the Baramati Vidhan Sabha constituency.

Shouldn't other Vidhan Sabha constituencies also get fair representation in Parliament? Should there be no other person who can contest an election from Baramati?

My fight is for giving equal opportunities for progress to the remaining five Vidhan Sabha constituencies that make up the Baramati Lok Sabha seat.

For two generations, people of Baramati are electing only the Pawars. Baramati is not the property of the Pawars. Then why should they treat Baramati like their personal property.

Your detractors from Ajit Pawar's NCP allege you are contesting from Baramati with the sole aim of defeating Sunetra Ajit Pawar, who will contest against Supriya Sule?

Ajit Pawar treated me very badly during the 2019 (Vidhan Sabha) election (which Shivtare lost from Purandar to the Congress' Sanjay Jagtap). I have forgiven him for that, but my people will not forgive him because for five years my international airport is being delayed; my water pipeline project (in Fursungi and Devachi Urli villages) was delayed due to him. This is a huge loss to the future generations of Baramati.

He spoke very humiliatingly to me during the 2019 (assembly) election, and threatened to finish me off politically.

He succeeded in defeating me by using intimidation and power politics, but my people (supporters) were not happy with it.

When I visit my constituency, they tell me that they will vote NOTA (None of the above) but not Ajit Pawar. The people are angry because he did not just insult Vijay Shivtare, but he humiliated the voters of Baramati.

I have nothing personal against him. I am against his power politics; people are against him.

Nobody wants to contest against the Pawars because of the power and domination they have in Baramati, which they wield viciously. They finish off their opponents.

Hundreds of families who have gone against them have been totally finished by them. That's the reason nobody wants to fight against them. But I believe we live in a fair democracy.

The Pawars poll roughly about 683,000 votes (in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency). But there is a huge bloc of voters who votes against the Pawars. The reason I get elected from Purandar is because I speak against the power politics of Pawars. There are 528,000 anti-Pawar votes in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency. These are real figures I am talking about.

These 528,000 voters don't want to vote for this Pawar (Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar) or that Pawar (Supriya Sule, Sharad Pawar's daughter).By contesting from Baramati I am giving these voters the political space to express their opposition to the Pawars. I am giving them a choice that they can happily exercise.

If I am not there, they will have to choose from only among the two Pawars who they don't want to vote for. But then what is the alternative? In a democracy it should not happen that there is no third choice, or many more choices for people to vote for.

Either they will vote for NOTA or choose a soft person -- Ajit Pawar is very rude -- like Supriya Sule. While she has also not done much for Baramati in the last 15 years (Supriya Sule has been a three-time MP since 2009 from Baramati) but woh bolte hai na paththar se eent bhali (a brick is better than a stone).

I have been getting calls from Baramati since the last few days. They are beseeching me to not back out from the race. The people want an alternative to the Pawars in Baramati. I will not back down from this fight.

But what if your party, the Shiv Sena, asks you to step down?

There is enough time on my hands. I'm trying to pursue them (the Shiv Sena and the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis to let me contest from Baramati).

If the Pawars are so powerful, then why are they scared of a fight with an ordinary candidate like me? Why are they afraid of Vijay Shivtare?

If your party has not agreed to your candidature for the Baramati Lok Sabha seat, then aren't you defying your party leadership?

Democratic values are more important than a party. I am thinking about those 5,30,000 voters and want to give them the opportunity, a choice other than the Pawars. I am doing my democratic duty. I am not against (my) party. Not against my party or my chief minister (Eknath Shinde).

I want to defeat both the Pawars. I want to defeat Ajit Pawar as well as Sharad Pawar.

IMAGE: NCP leader Ajit Pawar speaks after Sharad Pawar resigned as party president at the Y B Chavan auditorium in Mumbai, May 2, 2023. It was the first sign that all was not well within the uncle-nephew duo and the NCP could head for a split. Photograph: ANI Photo

But there are reports that you are contesting to defeat Sunetra Pawar at Sharad Pawar's behest.

This is the media's handiwork. Let me be honest. I want the people of Baramati to have an alternative to the Pawars.

In 2014 (Lok Sabha), I tried my best to provide this alternative to the Pawars, but Gopinath Munde (the late Bharatiya Janata Party leader) persuaded me from contesting then. They told me I was needed more in Maharashtra than in the Lok Sabha.

Everybody knows what kind of match-fixing happens (so that the Pawars get to win Baramati).

There is a charge that you are also doing match fixing to help Sharad Pawar against his nephew Ajit Pawar...

Vijay Shivtare will never become a tool that can be used by anybody. These are wild speculations. The people who are spreading such rumours are against democracy. They want to confuse the voters.

I'm fighting for the people. I don't want any money. I am an honest man.

I will never become anybody's tool. I am against Sharad Pawar also.

I want to finish the dominance of both the Pawars in Baramati. Our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi also says that we need to finish dynasty politics and I am just following his command.

But there is dynasty politics in all the parties. Isn't Ajit Pawar, against whom Modi campaigned in Baramati and alleged that he was involved in a Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam, also a dynast? And after all that, the BJP joined hands with Ajit Pawar.

I am just trying to be transparent. I am clear in my thinking and actions. It is only to keep democracy alive that I am contesting from Baramati. Otherwise there are syndicates everywhere.

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