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On the campaign trail with Sharad Pawar's daughter

April 21, 2009
Vaihayasi P Daniel and photographer Sanjay Sawant accompany Baramati's new candidate as she tours the constituency and are surprised to discover what they find.

She's tall. Nearly as tall as her crowd-pleasing father. Thin. With military straight shoulders, she walks very fast -- strides along.

Her clothes are sensible -- simple cotton kurta-churidars, Kolhapuri chappals and very little jewellery -- a basic mangalsutra and some gold bangles. No pallu/chunni covered head or any other demure, coy female gestures.

Her plain-dealing speeches, given in simple and chaste Marathi -- one set of ideas for the village and another for city folk -- are delivered in a soft, reasonable voice. Vigorous haranguing in Marathi or impassioned speeches are not for Supriya Sule, 39, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's only child and the new Nationalist Congress Party candidate for her father's Baramati Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra.

"Rather than being melodramatic, it's my thoughts that I want to put across," she says.

When you observe her pushing along, swiftly, from tiny village to tiny village, at a punishing pace under the scorching summer Deccan heat, you realise she exemplifies the Hindi phrase: paav mein bhori hai... she has whirlwinds driving her heels.

Supriya campaigns with immense vigour. She has been campaigning non-stop in her constituency since November, apart from weekends -- and now just Sundays -- when she goes home to her two children -- Revati, 10 and Vijay, 7 -- in Mumbai.

The recently de-limited (re-drawn) Baramati constituency has 1.5 million odd voters and 964 villages that spread across parts of the farming districts (figs, sugarcane, cotton, grapes, chillies, onions, bajra, jawar) of Pune and Satara districts and include a few urban areas of southern Pune city and all of the 400-year-old municipal town of Baramati (population: upwards of 60,000).

Supriya has already been to 800 of these villages and hopes to visit all of them before voting day, April 23. On some days she does 33 villages in one go, say her aides with amazement. A few of the villages in the constituency are located up in the Sahyadris (approximately 1,400 metres above sea level) and only accessible on foot and get very few visits from canvassing politicians.

"Yes I have been there," she tells you, matter of fact. "It took me an hour (on foot). They were very happy to see me. They were very warm. It is a very different kind of world up there."

Image: Supriya Sule atop her election jeep as she canvasses in Pune. Photograph: Sanjay Sawant.

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