Pune: NCP leader Supriya Sule weathered the `Modi wave’ of 2014 to retain the family pocket borough of, though by a reduced margin, against Mahadev Jankar of the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh (RSP), a BJP ally. In 2019, BJP president Amit Shah has set his workers a target of winning 45 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra including Baramati.

The saffron party has fielded a candidate on its own symbol, sending a message that it intends to give a tough fight to the Pawars on their home turf. The NCP has been winning from Baramati Lok Sabha seat since 1999. To take on Sule, the BJP has given ticket to Kanchan Kul, wife of Rahul Kul, the RSP MLA from Daund, who wields a considerable political clout in the area.

Sule, daughter of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, had defeated Jankar by more than 70,000 votes in 2014. The victory margin was comfortable, but much smaller than in 2009 when she had won by more than three lakh votes. This time, Sule is leaving no stone unturned, reaching out to people across the constituency which covers assembly segments of Baramati, Daund, Indapur, Bhor, Khadakwasla and Purandar.

While the core of the constituency is made up of rural areas, the fringe areas of Khadakwasla, Balewadi, IT hub Hinjawadi alongwith Dhanakwadi and Chandani Chowk which are part of Pune cityhave urban voters. NCP’s Pune district chief Pradip Garatkar said the Modi wave and anti-incumbency did have some impact in 2014, but now people have experienced the BJP rule and are disappointed.

“Farmers are in great distress. There is a lot of anger against both the state and the Centre,” he said. Sule has worked very hard in the last five years, he said. “We have a very strong organisation. NCP workers have a strong presence at the booth-level,” he added.

Garatkar denied that the BJP fielding a candidate on on its own `lotus’ symbol will make any difference. Sule, a recipient of the best parliamentarian award, has regained ground by addressing people’s issues and ensuring implementation of various schemes, he said, claiming that she will win by at least 3 lakh votes.

MLA Rahul Kul, on the other hand, expressed confidence that the development works carried out by the BJP-led governments in the state and the Centre will tilt the scales in his wife’s favour.

“We want here the kind of development that has taken place elsewhere in the state, which is possible only if the BJP candidate wins,” he told PTI. “At present development is restricted only to Baramati town and adjoining areas,” he claimed.

“While our priority in urban areas will be to address traffic congestion, waste management, bad roads and other urban issues, in rural areas the focus will be on the issue of irrigation,” he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not addressed any rally in Baramati in 2014, but this time state leaders were trying to organise a Modi rally in the constituency, Kul said.