With NCP chief Sharad Pawar saying he might contest the Lok Sabha elections this time, the polls could see as many as four members of the Pawar family in the fray.
Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule is almost certain to contest from Baramati, from where she is the sitting MP. Sule’s cousin, former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, is likely to contest from Shirur constituency, while his son Parth Pawar is getting ready to contest from the neighbouring Maval seat.
In the last elections, Sule was the only family member in the fray. NCP leaders concede that the presence of Pawar family in the contest would increase the chances of the party not just in the seats from where they are contesting but elsewhere as well. It would also enable the party to play a bigger role in national politics.
Two days ago at Pawar’s residence in Pune city, NCP leaders raised the pitch for Sharad Pawar to contest the elections, contending that his presence would boost the morale of the rank and file of the party across the state. On Saturday, at his residence in Baramati, Pawar reiterated that he was under pressure from his own party leaders to contest. “I am not ready mentally. But will certainly give it a thought,” he said.
In 2009, Pawar had contested Madha seat in Solapur district from where he won. He had vacated the Baramati Lok Sabha seat for his daughter. Pawar has won the Baramati seat for more than two decades.
On Friday, leaders like Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, who has been elected from Madha, urged Pawar to contest again. NCP leaders said Pawar should contest either from Pune or Maval. “If he contests from Pune, he will not have to campaign hard, as he is known in every nook and corner and he knows every leader and worker. Besides, a major part of the Maval seat was in Baramati constituency before 2009,” said an NCP leader,” said an NCP leader. In the ongoing alliance talks between the Congress and NCP, the NCP has been insisting that the Pune seat should go to the party. NCP leaders said it is because the party wants to field Pawar. The final decision on the Pune seat has been left to the central leaders of both parties.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik, however, said: “Party workers and leaders are urging Pawarsaheb to contest the elections. But he had already made it clear that he will not contest the polls.”
Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule has already started campaigning to retain her Baramati seat. She has the won seat twice. In 2014, she won by over three lakh votes. In 2009, however, her margin of victory was reduced to around 60,000 votes. She faced a challenge from Rashtriya Samaj Paksha chief Mahadev Jankar who went on to become a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government. Sule is likely to face another tough contest this time with BJP chief Amit Shah and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis declaring on Saturday that they would snatch the seat from the NCP.
Another key leader of the NCP, Ajit Pawar, who has considerable influence in selection of candidates, has announced that he was ready to contest from Shirur where the Shiv Sena has had an upper hand for the past 15 years.
Sena candidate Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil has been winning the seat with massive margins. The NCP has not been able to find a challenger. Recently, Ajit Pawar, speaking at a rally in Shrirur, offered to contest the seat. Last week, Sharad Pawar had, however, rejected the idea. Close aide of Ajit Pawar said: “When Ajit Pawar says something, he does it…We are hopeful that he will contest from Shirur for the party’s sake.” Parth Pawar, Ajit Pawar’s son, has been making frequent visits to Maval constituency. At a meeting in Talegaon recently, Parth said if the party gives the nod, he is ready to contest.
“With Parth in the fray, the mood in the area will change,” said NCP leader Yogesh Behl, a close aide to Ajit Pawar.