By Quaid Najmi, Buldana (Maharashtra), Feb 10 IANS | 10 months ago

A year after routing veteran politicians in local elections in Maharashtra, ex-NASA consultant Balasaheb Darade, endorsed by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and social activist Anna Hazare, is now ready to contest the Lok Sabha poll.

Hazare has thrown his weight behind the 29-year old Darade whom he has described as a "clean and independent candidate" from Buldana Lok Sabha constituency.

"In fact, I am privileged to be the first candidate blessed and supported by Hazare. He will gradually announce his support for a few more clean and committed candidates, whether independents or belonging to any political party," an excited Darade told IANS here.

Darade's gurus, former president Abdul Kalam and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar may set the agenda for Darade's campaign with their suggestions on the requirements of the people.

"From their agenda, I will draft my manifesto and contest the elections based on that," he said.

However, he declined to answer a question whether Hazare or Abdul Kalam or Ravishankar would campaign for him in any manner.

In February 2013, Darade grabbed headlines when he swept the Pangradole Circle constituency in the district council polls in Buldana, 500 km northeast of Mumbai on the state's border with Madhya Pradesh, by trouncing his nearest Nationalist Congress Party rival by over 4,000 votes.

At the age of 28 then, Darade became the youngest Zilla Parishad Member as well as the only candidate to win with the highest vote margin, said his campaign manager Amol Kadam.

This time round, the stakes would be different, Darade admits, as he is preparing the grounds and prospects for his maiden parliamentary election.

"I shall be independent and represent the will of the people since there is no democracy in any of the political parties. All political parties are run by handful of people and the will of the common man is starkly absent," he contended.

While he was preparing for the parliamentary elections since the past one year with complete dedication to various projects in Buldana, Darade's candidature is bound to cause concern to the existing political set-up in the constituency.

The present Lok Sabha member is Pratap Jadhav of Shiv Sena and of the six assembly segments that comprise the Buldana parliamentary constituency, two each are held by the Shiv Sena and the Congress and one each by the NCP and Bharatiya Janata Party.

With the proposed entry of Darade, Buldana could see another dimension to local political cauldron.

Darade claimed that he had been invited and offered nomination by the Aam Aadmi Party and other parties, but he decided in favour of Hazare's "clean and principled politics".

"With eminent personalities like Kalam sir, Ravishankar, Hazare, scores of local educated youth, good politicians from different parts of the state, technocrats and MNC employees in the US and other countries, I plan to set up a political think-tank which can guide the country's progress," Darade said.

On this front, he and several well-known Indians in the US as well as Americans held meetings with Hazare during his low-profile trip to the country.

Having lost his parents at a very young age, Darade lived and worked in the US for over a decade, specialising in nanotechnology.

His cutting-edge work bagged him a prestigious consultancy with NASA where he worked on nano solar cells for the Mars Rover project.

He left all the fame and glory after his conscience called him to help change and improve things in his backward, unknown Parda village in Buldana, considered among the backward regions, located in the north-central part of the state, as the westernmost point of Vidarbha region.

Prior to Darade's election last year, Buldana was only known for the Lonar Crater salt water lake formed by a meteoric hit over 50,000 years ago, and the ancient Gajanan Maharaj Temple, besides its hill stations.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

(Posted on 10-02-2014)

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