His Grandpa Popularized the 'Jai Bhim' Slogan in Marathwada; Now, This 44-YO Grandson Prioritizes Development for Solapur Constituency

LokSabha Elections 2024: Rahul Kashinath Gaikwad, the candidate fielded by Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), who in his debut electoral battle is confronting political heavyweights like Ram Satpute from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Praniti, daughter of veteran leader Sushilkumar Shinde from the Indian National Congress.
With a degree in Commerce and a Post Graduate Diploma in Foreign Trade from PUMBA (Pune University), Rahul Gaikwad is an approachable and straightforward individual who easily connects with the people.
With a degree in Commerce and a Post Graduate Diploma in Foreign Trade from PUMBA (Pune University), Rahul Gaikwad is an approachable and straightforward individual who easily connects with the people.

Solapur- Over eight decades ago, his maternal grandfather, Bhau Saheb More, a close accomplice of Baba Saheb Ambedkar, ignited the empowering and robust "Jai Bhim" slogan in the Marathwada region.

Now, years later, his 44-year-old grandson echoes the same slogan as he traverses door-to-door in his rigorous election campaign in the Solapur constituency of Maharashtra.

Meet Rahul Kashinath Gaikwad, the candidate fielded by Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), who in his debut electoral battle is confronting political heavyweights like Ram Satpute from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Praniti, daughter of veteran leader Sushilkumar Shinde from the Indian National Congress.

The Solapur seat is reserved for Scheduled Castes. The BJP won it in 2014 and 2019 by defeating Sushilkumar Shinde, who had won the seat in 1998 and 2009.

With a degree in Commerce and a Post Graduate Diploma in Foreign Trade from PUMBA (Pune University), Rahul Gaikwad is an approachable and straightforward individual. Despite hailing from Akkalkot, his native village in Solapur district, he travels 30 plus kilometers daily to the city, where he kicks off his electoral campaigning and engages with the people.

Rahul would file his nominations on April 15. However, even before submission of papers or being allotted a symbol, Rahul has already set out on his mission to connect with people and explain the economics of elections.

"With statistics, economics, and accounting as my chosen field of subjects, I link real-life lessons with them. I like to tell people that as many political parties as there are, it is good for the common public as competition makes candidates focused and aim for perfection, " quips Rahul in a candid conversation with The Mooknayak.

Speaking about his electoral debut , he says "My political entry had been totally unplanned and unexpected. I was involved in social work since 2009 but had never thought that one day I would face elections, and that too for the highest seat of democracy,"

Rahul's grandfather BhauSaheb More, who popularised the Jai Bhim slogan in Marathwada.
Rahul's grandfather BhauSaheb More, who popularised the Jai Bhim slogan in Marathwada.

Hailing from a humble background, Rahul's paternal grandfather earned his livelihood by cutting wood from the jungle and had never attended school. His father, Kashinath Gaikwad, was the first person in the family to achieve a higher level of education and secure a government job. He was an IPS officer.

"My dad was SP Pune rural and was in the service when he passed away , and since he was in law enforcement, I closely witnessed the struggles of the common man, especially the hardships faced by oppressed and marginalized communities prevalent in Maharashtra. From my father, I inherited the spirit of social work and a desire to serve my community. On my mother's side, perhaps the inclination towards political service runs in my blood, as my Nana ji, Bhau Saheb More, left his government job to join the Schedule Caste Federation and engage in social and political service."

"Baba Saheb used to correspond with my Nana ji, Bhau Saheb More, seeking advice on various issues. My Nana ji felt that the issues of social justice and the upliftment of the Dalit community were pressing, prompting him to leave his comfortable government job and choose a more challenging path. My mother used to recount childhood stories when the family faced financial hardships after Nanaji quit his job. They raised hens at home, and my mother would exchange the eggs for grains and pulses at the local grocery store — bartering was common practice then," Rahul shared.

"Can you imagine, my mother's home got a door in 1986? Such had been the condition of the family. Whatever development that the political parties boast today, the truth is that the lives of the common people, particularly the marginalized communities, remain very harsh and hard," Rahul further added.

So, how did the political entry happen? Answering this question, Rahul goes back to 2020 when he fielded independent candidates at the village panchayat elections in Wagdari.

"After finishing my education, I worked for some time and later set up my little business. I was inclined towards social service and made whatever little efforts I could to champion the cause of education and entrepreneurship, especially for youth and women. I used to witness established political parties having a significant influence in elections with their power of money and influence. Gradually, I realized that social work alone cannot bring about real change; one needs political power. Hence, in the village elections, me and our group of supporters fielded hardworking candidates, and 4 of them won with a good margin."

Rahul narrates how he was surprised to receive a call from Prakash Ambedkar, the founder of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, who asked to meet him in Mumbai on March 21. "I was deeply involved in social service and actively engaged in grassroots-level politics, which might have led him to consider me a suitable candidate to represent Solapur, the constituency from where Prakash ji himself fought the general elections in 2019. We met in Mumbai, and he offered me the seat," Rahul says, who sees this as a significant challenge. Prakash finished as the second runner-up in the previous battle, where BJP's Jaisidhesvar Swami won the fight with 524,985 votes, Sushilkumar Shinde finished second with 366,377 votes, and Prakash Ambedkar scored 170,007 votes.

Rahul believes that by raising awareness about social justice and equal opportunities, VBA is not just seeking support, but striving to transform society.
Rahul believes that by raising awareness about social justice and equal opportunities, VBA is not just seeking support, but striving to transform society.

Championing Development and Good Governance Amidst Political Fray

The city of Solapur, once renowned for its thriving industries, including textiles and beedi factories, has tragically lost its former glory. It was once referred to as the "city of workers," drawing migrants from rural areas of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka to seek employment opportunities in its mills and factories. However, the closure of textile mills, which began in the 1980s, marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the city's economy. This decline was exacerbated by the impact of liberalization, which led to the demise of the powerloom and beedi industries as well. As a result, thousands of workers were left unemployed, forced to seek insecure and informal employment as domestic workers, waiters, or ragpickers. The once-prosperous city now grapples with the stark reality of economic hardship and social dislocation, symbolized by the poignant image of former mill workers' wives resorting to rag-picking to earn a meager income daily.

"Finding back the lost glory of Solapur is my agenda" - Now, in the election fray facing political giants, Rahul's agenda is clear and concise- Development, and only Development. " Youth are migrating to Pune, Mumbai, and Hyderabad seeking employment. Reviving the old factories and setting up new manufacturing units to generate livelihood sources is my prime commitment," Rahul asserts. Good governance, healthcare, and water are among the other pressing issues he emphasizes.

Rahul further expresses his disillusionment with the political parties that have ruled over the area for years without accomplishing anything significant, especially for the marginalized communities. "They do not want the community to be economically strengthened. If hunger and basic needs are solved, the Dalits and marginalized sections will start using their minds to assert their rights. So, keeping them engrossed in their daily struggle for bread and butter is the modus operandi," he states.

" We see them as BJP or Congress, but I think they all are one. With the recent wave of defection visible across the nation, there is no ideology and principles left. Have you ever thought that Ashok Chavan would join the BJP and Fadnavis would welcome him? They are all one. However, I do not see my political contenders as my rivals or enemies.' I believe in fair politics, no personal attacks, and hence I go door to door campaigning, engaging and bonding with people, talking about their issues, their aspirations, and expectations from their representative they wish to see in the parliament" says the young leader.

"Unlike a typical politician, alluring voters with fake promises is not Rahul's cup of tea. He is pretty straightforward and connects instantly with people he comes across—whether an elderly person or a youth, a woman or a child—everyone is equally treated with compassion and cordiality" Rahul's close accomplice and aide, Ritesh Kachhap told The Mooknayak.

"We are amazed to see how he really makes an instant connect with people from varied backgrounds. It was the Hindu new year two days ago when he attended a community function at the Dhangar community, and today he was at the Eidgah greeting and hugging people at the mosque. He interacts with community at Buddh Vihars across the constituency. Religion, caste, and gender don't matter to him as he meets everyone with the same respect and love," says Alok Mishra, one of his close companions who accompanies him in the campaigning.

"He sets off early from Akkalkot and reaches by 12-1 am every night, but in the next morning, he gets up even when we are still in our beds" Alok says.

Alok also points out that despite his heavy body built and standing tall at 6'3", Rahul's physique doesn't seem to be a barrier, and he makes everyone feel equal, such is his friendly nature".

On being asked how VBA aims to tackle the competition and why people should vote for him, Rahul says, "VBA is a budding party; it was established in 2018. During the last elections, VBA had just taken birth, and at that time, we were unplanned, unprepared, and unorganized. But in the past 5 years, we have strengthened our foothold and network among people, especially penetrating into rural areas. By making people aware of social justice and equal opportunities, we are not just vying for their support but aiming to bring about real change in society."

"Again, being a commerce student, let me explain the vote equation," Rahul offers an explanation. "Analyzing the vote share, we can see that BJP got 48.33 percent vote share, Congress had 33.78 percent, and VBA had 15.68 percent votes in 2019. Definitely, this time BJP and Congress both are going to lose their shares, which would be an edge to VBA," he concludes on a hopeful note.

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