28 April 2014 National Web Exclusive: Interview

'I Don't See A Major Political Challenge From AAP'

NCP leader and Sharad Pawar's daughter on the prospects and challenges for her party
'I Don't See A Major Political Challenge From AAP'
'I Don't See A Major Political Challenge From AAP'

Prachi Pinglay-Plumber: What do you think of Mr. Sharad Pawar's decision to not contest after being in electoral politics for so long? How will it impact NCP in the coming elections?

Supriya Sule: Hon. Sharad Pawar saheb had a long and successful political life. He has played a major role in development of Maharashtra for several decades. He has also been driving force in the growth in agriculture sector all over India in the last decade.  He has contested and won 14 elections in a row. He is also set to play a major role in Maharashtra and India. Not to contest the election is his personal decision. For the party, we have got such a senior and experienced leader for strategizing and campaigning all over the state.

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You have tried to address issues such as malnutrition and maternal mortality but these issues never figure in election manifestos or never become a muddaa in the larger scheme of elections. Even today caste and religion seem to be the driving force. Your thoughts?

For an issue to be made 'political' it is not necessary that it should be included in election speeches. For election manifesto, health and education has always got a major thrust in both UPA and NCP agendas. A group of young parliamentarians across parties are working together for the issue of malnutrition. We have visited several palaces across the country, identified good models and insisted that respective governments should work towards replicating it. I would like to give the example of our campaign against female foeticide. We took up the issue, focused mainly on public awareness. When we started we considered it as a social issue only, but in the process people also show their concern and cast their votes taking the issue into account. I am very happy that many political leaders took up this issue and it became the social movement in the state. This is good example of making a social issue into a muddaa. NCP Yuvati took up the issue of hygiene, safety and health as an organization. I think, this is the first time that a political wing is taking such social issues and following up consistently.

Educated population and new generation is looking beyond caste and religion. I am sure that they can rise above such considerations.

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Despite having several programmes for women's wing, women's participation remains a challenge in politics. (Even in your star campaigners there are only 7 women to 37 men).  From your interactions with women of all ages, what are the challenges that you identify?

Women are playing a major role in politics. With 50 % reservation for women in local self government, they are handling these bodies efficiently. We have capable women leadership and they are playing a major role in grass root level campaigning in all the constituencies. You will see changes in the next election at the larger level. We all agree that women's reservation in assembly and parliamentary elections is needed for greater women participation. We have always extended our support to get the [Women reservation] bill passed in Parliament, and it remains a major challenge.

Opportunity to work at various levels, greater exposure and systematic training are needed in a regular way in this process. We have started a separate wing for young women in our party as 'Nationalist Yuvati Congress'. This has not only given our party the largest cadre- base of young women on the ground but also helped us to identify and take up their issues.

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Given the comments of Mulayam Singh Yadav or Abu Azam Azmi, it is clear that the deep rooted biases about women are far from gone. As a woman politician, do you battle these stereotypes at personal (family, children) level and with party workers?

I have taken a clear stand when comments were made in Parliament during discussions  and while suggesting amendments in the criminal law for strict punishment for rape and harassment. These comments reflect the patriarchal mentality of our society as whole. Like every woman, I too have also experienced these stereotypes. In the party we are very conscious about this factor; we have established Vishakha Committee in our party office. Senior leadership, both male and female, is not only keen on tackling such issues in the party but also in the society.

Do you think dynasty politics is a hindrance in getting civil society members into politics? Why?

Having a political family background provides an opportunity to understand political process while you are growing up. People also have expectations from the young family members of political leaders. Family background also helps the youth to build their own cadre- base and get continuous guidance from senior family members. Thus, obviously, people having political background have to perform on the field. Political career of any person is a result of many things, how the person handles party workers, how he/she tackles social issues, when and where he/she takes a political stand and how he/she handles administration. Thus family background is just one of the many factors for the political journey of any person. People do not support you always just because you are a family member of a successful politician. Performance is the only criteria. I won't call it dynasty. I don't feel that this is a hindrance in getting civil society members into politics. Our party and specially youth, student and young women's wings are constantly working for bringing new members into the political process.

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Corruption has become one of the most discussed issues in recent times. Do you think allegations in Lavasa, or Ajit Pawar's name in the irrigation scam will have an impact on voters? How can one get more transparency in politics and governance?

False allegations are part of politics. Opposition deliberately makes allegations for defamation of a political personality. We have effective law enforcement agencies, Maharashtra is amongst the first states which had appointed Lokayukta and has legal measures to tackle corruption. There have been inquiries and truth has come in front of the people. Hon. Ajit Pawar even resigned from all the ministries until there was a clear conclusion that all the allegations were false. Just lip service won't stop corruption. Strengthening systems and bringing transparency is key to tackle it.

How do you view AAP's presence in this election?  Particularly Maharashtra?

People from all over the country had great expectations from AAP when it started. But the short journey of the party is disappointing. The way they handled Delhi government for a short period of time and the way they ran away from responsibility given by the people is an eye opener for voters. Social activism is a different thing. Nurturing your constituency and running a government are two different things. I don't think that AAP is serious about a constructive political process. I don't see major political challenge from them in Maharashtra.

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What are the main positives and challenges from your constituency Baramati? Anything else you may want to mention regarding your campaign this year?

Baramati constituency is known for its development all over the country. People talk about the Baramati model. Hon. Sharad Pawar Saaheb and Hon. Ajitdada Pawar have done massive work in the constituency before I was elected for the first time. The major challenge was to keep the momentum of the development process. I am satisfied that I could take up the development process—may it be water for drinking and irrigation, road connectivity, consistent electric supply, work has been done in the constituency. I am in constant touch with my constituency for the last five years. Issues of youth and senior citizens are taken up by my party. This has helped me during my election campaign which was mainly focused on the development work in the constituency.

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