Stressing that she had come to strengthen the BJP in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency in Pune district, Union Finance Minister and senior party leader Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday clarified that the purpose of her three-day visit to Baramati, considered the bastion of the Pawar clan, was not to talk about any one family.
Mrs. Sitharaman’s Baramati tour is part of the BJP’s Pravas campaign to shore up its base in 144 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country (where the saffron party is weak) ahead of the 2024 general election.
Sixteen of the 144 LS constituencies are in Maharashtra of which Baramati, hitherto the impregnable bastion of the Pawar clan and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is a prime target for the BJP.
When questioned by reporters about the BJP’s strategy to target Baramati in order to end the supremacy of the Pawar family there, an irritable Ms. Sitharaman shot back: “I have come here to strengthen the BJP in the constituency not for any one family…What is this Lok Sabha target you [the media] people keep saying. I urge the media not to keep repeating this. Do not impose yours [the media’s] opinion on me.”
At the same time, Ms. Sitharaman said that if local BJP leaders thought that her visit would lead the BJP to victory in Baramati (which the BJP has not won in any major election), then they were entitled to their opinion
“If my partymen are saying this, then it is their opinion. I am not going to keep arguing with them on this. The BJP will be trying to enhance its base in every constituency,” she said.
BJP state president Chandrashekhar Bawankule had said that his party was confident of giving the NCP a stiff fight and wresting Baramati from the Pawar family in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
‘Trying to control inflation’
When questioned about spiraling inflation, the Finance Minister said she had been talking on the topic and answering regularly on the issue in Parliament.
“We are doing everything to keep it under control. See what is going on all over the world. Inflation in the United States has reached the highest in 40 years. Inflation in Germany is 30%. We are much better off in comparison,” she said.
While both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his daughter, Baramati MP Supriya Sule, had ‘welcomed’ Ms. Sitharaman to their constituency, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had no such qualms about such courtesies.
Earlier, AAP workers brandished black flags at the convoy of the Union Finance Minister to protest against rising inflation and Goods and Services Tax-related issues.
Three AAP workers were detained during the protest in Pune’s Warje area, the police said.