Like in Baramati, the Pawar family faces a prestige battle in the Maval Lok Sabha constituency, which goes to polls on April 29 in the fourth and last phase of voting in Maharashtra. Parth Pawar, son of NCP leader Ajit Pawar, is locked in a direct fight with Shiv Sena’s Shrirang Barne in the seat.
While Parth is contesting for the first time, Barne won the seat in 2014 by a big margin of over 1.50 lakh votes. The NCP had lost the seat in 2009, too.
Parth (27) got a chance to contest after NCP chief Sharad Pawar decided not to contest the elections this time. The senior Pawar, who was supposed to contest from Madha, opted out to make way for the younger generation. According to him, three Pawars in the race won’t look good for the party’s image. “For the NCP, Parth is an ideal choice for Maval as he is from the Pawar family. He has a lot of support,” party leader Yogesh Behl said.
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Contesting for the first time, Parth, who struggled to deliver his maiden poll speech and was also trolled on social media, has since covered much ground, talking to voters, addressing rallies and going on padyatras.
For Barne too, it wasn’t a smooth start as BJP leaders strongly opposed his candidature. BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap led the rebellion against Barne and it required intervention from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to effect a patch-up.
The Maval seat is spread over Pune and Raigad districts. While three Assembly constituencies are in Raigad, three are in Pune. The seat was carved out in 2009 during delimitation. Pimpri-Chinchwad, now part of the Maval seat, was part of the Baramati seat before delimitation. Of the six Assembly seats, Chinchwad, Panvel and Maval are with the BJP, Pimpri and Uran with the Sena and Karjat with the NCP. The Maval LS seat has 22.5 lakh voters. There are 21 candidates in the fray.
In the 2014 LS elections, Barne had polled more votes than Jagtap in the Chinchwad Assembly segment. Jagtap had then contested as an Independent supported by the MNS. Now, with Jagtap and Barne patching up, it is believed Barne holds an advantage in Chinchwad. “The BJP-Sena has an edge in Chinchwad. The NCP candidate will have to do something extraordinary to get an upper hand,” BJP general secretary Sarang Kamtekar said.
In Panvel, Uran and Karjat, Barne in 2014 had polled less votes than Jagtap, who had the support of the Peasants and Workers Party. The PWP has now aligned with the NCP, boosting Parth’s chances.
This time, Barne is banking on the central schemes he has implemented in his constituency. “I have used 97 per cent of my MPLAD funds,” he said. Barne claimed he was instrumental in getting permission for a third and fourth railway track between Pune and Lonavala. “Besides, I have helped improve railways services in Karjat, Panvel and Uran,” he said, adding that he got Rs 100 crore sanctioned for the ailing Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd.
Parth, on the other hand, is harping on development undertaken by the NCP in Pimpri-Chinchwad. “Only a few cities in the country can match the development of Pimpri-Chinchwad. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the Gujarat model of development across the country, I will take the Pimpri-Chinchwad model everywhere,” he says in his speeches. Parth’s entire family is campaigning in Maval.