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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 July 2024

People pained at BJP’s dirty politics, says Supriya Sule

'People are exhausted. They are pained by BJP's dirty politics. People don’t like it beyond a point'

J.P. Yadav Baramati Published 07.05.24, 04:54 AM
Supriya Sule campaigns in Baramati.

Supriya Sule campaigns in Baramati. Picture by JP Yadav.

Supriya Sule may not agree but the three-term MP from Baramati in Maharashtra is fighting the most difficult and critical election of her political career.

She is vying to reclaim the legacy of her father, the veteran Sharad Pawar, from her cousin Ajit Pawar. A bitter split in the Pawar family-led NCP has now pitted the incumbent against her own sister-in-law, Sunetra Pawar, Ajit’s wife. Ajit is one of the two deputy chief ministers in the Eknath Shinde-led coalition government.

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During an interview with The Telegraph on the campaign trail, the only time she mentioned her estranged cousin’s name was when she drew this correspondent’s attention to Ajit’s sprawling farmhouse. “This is Ajit Pawar’s house,” Supriya said, pointed out of the car window. “All this, all this,” she added, seeking to emphasise how huge it was.

Q:What is at stake in Baramati for you?

Supriya: Nothing is at stake for me.

Q: Why? It’s one of the most high-profile fights and is being keenly watched by the country.

Supriya: I am flattered. Very flattered. If the whole country is revolving around this (Baramati battle), it’s very, very flattering.

Q: But it’s a fight in the family. Pawar vs Pawar.

Supriya: That’s the way the world looks at it. I don’t look at it that way.

Q: How do you look at it?

Supriya: For me, politics is not about power, it’s about service. And for me, this election is about serving my people, my state and my country.

Q: But this election is about the way the political landscape has changed in Maharashtra, with both the Shiv Sena and the NCP split in two. How do you see this impacting the election?

Supriya: Maharashtra politics was never like this. It’s unfortunately become very very dirty. And this is not the kind of politics for which we all came into politics.

Q: Who do you think is responsible for this split in the Pawar family that has forced you to fight a family member you were close to?

Supriya: Adrushya shakti (Invisible power).

Q: Who is this ‘adrushya shakti’?

Supriya: Well, it exists somewhere.

Q: Don’t you blame someone for this (split in the family)?

Supriya: I don’t blame anybody. Why should I waste my time blaming anybody?

Q: I noticed that in your speeches you are avoiding mentioning the principal candidate (Sunetra Pawar) by name. Why?

Supriya: I don’t name anybody even in my speeches in Parliament. I have never spoken against any individual ever in my life. My politics is not about individuals. It’s about ideology and policy.

Q: So what do you think is wrong with the present (central) government’s ideology?

Supriya: Two completely different ideologies we have. Right now, this (central) government is only about inflation, “mehngai, berozegari and bhrashtachar” (price rise, unemployment and corruption).

Q: You have been harping on these three things in your campaign speeches.

Supriya: That is the only thing that matters. What is a government about?

Q: In Baramati, the fight is being seen as one for “Pawar Saheb’s” (Sharad Pawar’s) legacy. It’s about who represents Pawar Saheb’s legacy — Supriya Tai or Ajit Dada.

Supriya: Well, legacies in politics are not decided by blood. Y.V. Chavan, the first chief minister of Maharashtra, had no blood relationship with Sharad Pawar. But today Y.V. Chavan’s legacy is only identified with Sharad Pawar. He called him (Pawar) “manas putra”, which means like a son. So, legacies in politics are not limited to blood relations. It’s how you take their thoughts, views and their dreams forward.

Q: You had the most cordial relationship, I believe, with Ajit Pawar. You were happy being in Delhi while he took care of the party in Maharashtra.

Supriya: Yes.

Q: What went wrong?

Supriya: You should ask him. He had always made it clear that he didn’t want to go to Delhi. So, you have to ask him what went wrong. From my side, nothing went wrong. I have not made any changes to anything I have been doing. Consistency and dependability is my middle name.

Q: In an interview, Ajit Pawar said that when the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi collapsed in 2022, almost all the NCP MLAs wanted the party to align with the BJP.

Supriya: The party and the elected members are two different things. MLAs are elected by the party and by the people. In our (party) constitution, the party is more important than the legislative assembly. The party structure and the MLAs are two different things. The party is with Sharad Pawar even today.

Q: The party may be there but he (Ajit) has taken its symbol, the ‘clock’.

Supriya: It’s under litigation. He hasn’t completely got it. Under the symbol there is a line that it’s under litigation.

Q: Yes, the matter is before the Supreme Court but the Election Commission has given the clock symbol to the Ajit Pawar faction, declaring it the real NCP.

Supriya: Yeah, because they didn’t do the tests. They ignored the first two-party tests and went to the third one. The same thing that happened to Uddhav Thackerayji has happened to us.

Q: You are raising the issue of Marathi sub-nationalism and Marathi pride in your speeches.

Supriya: Of course, it’s an important issue because two local parties, two big leaders from Maharashtra and their parties, are just being harassed. I mean, this is not democratic at all. Balasaheb Thackeray was the founder-member and when he was alive he chose Udhhav as his heir apparent; Sharad Pawar himself founded the party, how can you remove him as the party head?

Q: So, why are you shying away from naming the one responsible for all that you are highlighting?

Supriya: It is ‘adrushya shakti’. It is some power, somewhere doing all this. I am not shying away. You know, I never personalise anything. It’s my nature. I am anything but shy.

Q: How do you see Modi-Shah’s politics in the present context?

Supriya: It’s very unfortunate because it’s worrisome and alarming. You hear murmurs in the media, in the business family…. People live in a lot of fear in this country now. It has never been the case.

Q: PM Modi and the BJP started the election campaign with the aggressive ‘400-plus’ cry but have dropped that and are now saying they need the big majority to protect reservations. How do you view this change?

Supriya: I don’t know what their agenda for this election is. In 2014 they were talking about price rise, they were talking about bhrashtachar and they were talking about jobs. They have stopped talking about substantive things. In an institution like IIT Mumbai, 35 per cent people haven’t got placements. The economy — we all know where it is. Daal has become Rs 200 a kg. It’s ridiculous, the food prices are extraordinarily high. There is an agrarian crisis.

Q: In Maharashtra, the water crisis is particularly acute.

Supriya: Absolutely, and this government has just mismanaged it. Since December I have been tweeting, writing, meeting farmers and the government, requesting that it is a drought year, please plan everything properly and see what’s happening. It’s very unfortunate, the casual approach.

The government is too busy with ICE. ICE as in income tax, CBI and ED. Breaking parties, breaking families. That’s what this government is preoccupied with and so has very little time for administration.

Q: How do you see the prospect of the Opposition alliance in Maharashtra?

Supriya: The Maha Vikas Aghadi will do extraordinarily well.

Q: Reason?

Supriya: People are exhausted. They are pained by this dirty politics. People don’t like it beyond a point. They (the Modi government) have only harassed. They are behaving anti-democratically. Look at the case of Surat (the BJP candidate getting elected unopposed). I heard something similar happened in Indore (the Congress candidate withdrew and joined the BJP). How does this happen? Unopposed elections --- is this good for a vibrant democracy? It’s very, very worrisome.

Q: But still Modi’s popularity rating is very high; most election surveys are showing he is ahead.

Supriya: Possible, possible. He as an individual may be ahead but what is the ground reality? Have people’s lives really become better? Ask anybody on the road. What is the job situation? What are the food prices? Ask the farmers how much they are suffering.

Q: Do you feel a sympathy factor working in your favour?

Supriya: It’s not about sympathy; it’s about injustice. It’s almost like getting bullied by power and money. It’s a misuse of power and misuse of money.

Q: The BJP is saying it has a PM face in Modi and asking who there is from the Opposition.

Supriya: In 2004, there was no PM face. There is no dearth of talent in this country. Manmohan Singhji is one of the finest Prime Ministers we have ever had.

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