'The voters of Maharashtra have taught a lesson to Modi's arrogance.'
Three-time member of Parliament from Satara Udayanraje Bhosale, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji, lost the by-election for this seat to the Nationalist Congress Party's Shriniwas Dadasaheb Patil by 87,717 votes.
Bhosale had successfully contested as a NCP candidate from the constituency in 2009, when he first entered the Lower house of Parliament, and then again in 2014 and 2019, when the nation was gripped by the Narendra Modi wave.
Ironically, he lost the by-election to the seat -- which he had won defeating two Modi waves -- which he had vacated to contest from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, and for which Modi had himself held a public rally.
While Patil garnered 636,620 votes -- or 51% of the total votes -- polled in Satara, Bhosale emerged the runner up with 548,903 votes -- or 44% of the votes polled.
"I have only Sharad Pawar, the common voter of Satara who believed in Pawar's leadership, and my ability to represent them sincerely for my victory," Patil, 78, who is the NCP chief's friend since their college days and only two months younger to him, tells Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
Patil said Modi's raking-up of national issues like abrogation of Article 370, etc, failed to strike a chord with the voters of Satara and Maharashtra.
Instead, Pawar raising local issues of farmers and workers, of economy and employment, helped the NCP win the trust of the common voters, he said.
"Modi's rally, though huge, failed to help Bhosale's candidature because the people of Maharashtra were angry with him for his vendetta politics," Patil, a former IAS officer and former governor of Sikkim, adds.
"Modi taunted Pawar by saying that 'wah hawa ka rookh jante hai, isiliye khud khade nahi rahe' (Pawar knows which way the wind is blowing so he did not contest this assembly election for the fear of losing). The voters of Maharashtra have taught a lesson to such arrogance," Patil observes.
Talking about Bhosale's defection to the BJP, which necessitated the by-election, just four months into his third tenure as MP, Patil says, "My victory and his defeat is a strong message to people who switch parties for whatever reasons."
Recalling moments from Pawar's 30-minute speech, when the Maratha strongman spoke unwaveringly in heavy rain, Patil -- who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1999 (From the Karad Lok Sabha constituency in Satara before delimitation) and 2004 (from Satara) -- says, "Not a single person moved from his place when he was speaking. They kept chairs above their head as umbrellas to protect themselves from the rain, but no one moved."
"When people saw this 78 year old delivering his speech for more than 30 minutes despite heavy rain, it turned the tide in the NCP's favour not just in Satara, but across the state," Patil adds.
Asked what propels septuagenarians like Pawar and him to brave the rough and tumble of electoral politics at this age, Patil used Pawa's wry humour to respond: "It's all God's grace that we are still so active in politics. Also, we pay our income tax and all other taxes regularly so we don't fear ED, BD or anybody else."