NCP leaders on Monday said that they were not surprised by party chief Sharad Pawar’s announcement that he will not contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The BJP, however, said that “fear of losing the polls and reputation” has made Pawar flee the poll ring even before jumping into it.
“It’s clear that Pawar does not want to actually lose in the poll ring,” said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.
In 2009, Pawar, contesting from the Madha seat, had won by a margin of over 3.14 lakh votes. He had contested from Madha after vacating the Baramati seat for his daughter, Supriya Sule.
The BJP said that the “fear factor” seemed to be uppermost on his mind. “Pawar doesn’t want to lose face on the poll terrain this time. He has been winning elections all the time but the situation is different this time. He fears losing…,” Bhandari added.
Bhandari said at Monday’s press conference that Pawar was repeatedly harping that he had won so many times and that he had won even during the Modi wave. “This statement itself proves that he wants to keep his winning streak and head high. His defeat or even a bad performance will hit the NCP hard which Pawar does not want to happen,” he claimed.
NCP’s ally the Congress said that it could be a well-thought out decision on the part of Pawar. “We have no clue why he has decided to opt out. He is an experienced leader and he must have taken a decision based on ground realities…It could be a ‘Pawar-play’,” said state Congress chief Ashok Chavan.
When asked about BJP’s remarks that Pawar was running away as he was certain to lose, Chavan said, “The BJP will always say that… everyone knows Pawar’s winning abilities.”
NCP MP Vandana Chavan, however, dismissed any thought of Pawar deciding not to contest out of fear of losing. “It’s just impossible to believe that Pawar would fear losing. He can’t lose as he has won every election with massive margins,” the MP said.
Vandana Chavan, who is close to the Pawar family, said the NCP chief opting out of the race is in line with his repeated statements that he doesn’t want to contest elections anymore. “Even I had requested him to contest from Pune. But he told me that he would not contest the LS polls anymore and that younger party colleagues should be given an opportunity,” said Vandana Chavan.
Vandana Chavan said that it was also not correct to say that Pawar was rattled by the infighting within the NCP in the Madha seat. “Pawar had changed his mind and announced that he would contest from Madha after local leaders pressured him…,” she said.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that when the party chief has made the decision, it is final. “He has said it… we don’t have to say anything,” he said.
Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, sitting NCP MP from Madha, said that he had no knowledge as to why Pawar withdrew from the race. “Our party chief has said everything at the press conference… I don’t want to add anything more,” he said, when asked whether infighting within the NCP made Pawar change his mind.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said that the decision is not significant until a clear picture emerges. “Anyway, he might again change the decision,” she said.
At Monday’s press conference, Pawar himself emphasised that he had won elections 14 times (including Assembly polls) and, therefore, his decision was to make way for the younger generation. “I have discussed the issue with my family members. Supriya and I have been contesting the Lok Sabha elections. I have myself contested 14 elections… we believe now is the time for the younger generation to take over,” he said at Baramati Hostel in the city. As for his grand-nephew Parth Pawar’s likely nomination from Maval, Pawar said that the party takes a decision on the elective merit and popularity of candidates. “In Parth’s case, there have been demands from local party leaders to field him from Maval. We have considered their view,” he said.
Pawar said that discussions on the Ahmednagar seat were still under way.
“We had finished second in all the Nagar seats during the Assembly elections. Besides, in Ahmednagar district, the Shirdi seat was with the Congress and Nagar is with the NCP,” he said, when asked about senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil’s son Sujay Vikhe-Patil’s possibility of joining the BJP in view of NCP’s refusal to part with the seat.