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Supriya Sule to reach out to youth, women as NCP faces credibility crisis

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-09-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Even as the shadow of corruption probes over senior leaders threatens to land the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in a credibility crisis, the party’s Maharashtra unit is putting its best foot forward.

Supriya Sule, the party’s member of Parliament (MP) from Baramati and daughter of party president Sharad Pawar, begins her state-wide tour from Monday during which she will reach out to college students and women.

Sule’s youth and women outreach, planned carefully by the NCP to revive the party’s grassroots connections, is also an attempt to move away the focus from those party leaders “either under the gaze of investigative agencies or perceived to be corrupt”, according to an NCP legislator and strategist who did not want to be named.

To supplement Sule’s outreach and give it a wider base, the NCP has also planned a statewide agitation from 1 October to protest against the delayed implementation of the farm loan waiver, according to state unit president Sunil Tatkare. “There has been a long gap between the announcement of the loan waiver and actual implementation. We will hit the streets from 1 October to highlight the utter failure of this scheme and force the government to implement it at least now before Diwali,” Tatkare said.

Sule, 47, was one of four MPs who won in the 2014 general elections from Maharashtra on an NCP ticket. Though she is the urban and articulate face of the NCP which largely comprises politicians with rural fiefdoms, Sule has maintained her rural connect as well through a slew of social and women empowerment initiatives in her constituency.

“All our senior leaders including former deputy chief minister Ajit dada (Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar’s nephew) are involved in the process to revive the party. They have their own strengths and constituencies to address. But Supriya tai is the only one who connects with the youth and women not only because she is Pawar saheb’s daughter but also because she has nurtured this constituency,” said the NCP strategist.

This leader pointed at the various ongoing and likely investigations into alleged corruption scams involving senior party leaders including Ajit Pawar and Tatkare. “Though it is only in Chhagan Bhujbal’s case that the probe has culminated in arrest, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government has been able to keep up the pressure on NCP on other cases. Last week, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) filed a chargesheet in the Kondane Dam case in which it has mentioned that it may probe Tatkare’s role. All this helps the BJP create an impression that NCP is a corrupt party and we need to fight it out in the public space only,” said the NCP leader.

He said Sule would visit around 100 colleges across Maharashtra and deliver speeches and interact with the students.

Alongside, she would also engage with women through the party’s women’s wing. “The key part of her youth agenda is the total failure of the Modi government to create jobs. Modi would attack the UPA’s (United Progressive Alliance, led by Congress) economic policies alleging that they delivered jobless growth. Now, various international as well as domestic agencies have reported that there is neither growth nor jobs. This is a potential issue on which we aim to connect with the youth who are restless,” said the NCP leader.

This NCP leader and other party functionaries admitted that Sule’s outreach was also aimed at earning the party some credibility after a spate of recent episodes that raised questions over the NCP’s position vis-a-vis the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The most recent was when Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who is close to NCP chief Sharad Pawar, said Modi offered a cabinet berth to Sule if the NCP joined the NDA. Sule has denied that such an offer was made. “The story adds to the public impression that NCP is warming up to the NDA which is not true. Since Supriya tai was herself named by Raut, it is all the more important that she goes out among the people to set at rest the speculation,” said the NCP strategist.

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