With a lot at stake, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP is planning to field party’s big guns in the Lok Sabha elections. Party leaders feel that for Pawar to flex his political muscles in national politics, the party must win at least 10 to 12 Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra. At present, the NCP control just five seats.
Pawar (78), a three-time chief minister, has hinted that he is considering the option of entering the fray from western Maharashtra’s Madha constituency, which he had represented in 2009. On Wednesday, NCP’s state president Jayant Patil lent more credence to the likelihood of Pawar contesting. “Our senior leaders are of the opinion that Pawar saheb should himself contest from Madha,” he said.
After repeatedly asserting in the past couple of years that he was not interested in contesting, the former Union agriculture minister, who did not contest the 2014 polls, had himself hinted at a return to the election battleground last week.
On the sidelines of the party’s election review meeting in Solapur’s Sangola, Pawar had stated, “Some senior party leaders and the sitting MP from Madha insisted that I contest election (from Madha). I haven’t taken any decision so far and I have no desire to contest election, but some party leaders said that the way they obey my policy decisions, I should also respect their decision,”
“The political climate in the country has changed. Everyone (in the party) feels that Pawar should go to the Lok Sabha,” said Jayant Patil.
Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, Madha’s sitting MP, also from NCP, has withdrawn his claim for a re-election in Pawar’s favour.
On Wednesday, senior party leader Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, who is also the chairman of the state’s Legislative Council, and Jayant Patil, held deliberations with Mohite-Patil, former IAS officer Prabhakar Deshmukh and other local party leaders from Madha. Interestingly, Ganpatrao Deshmukh, Peasants and Workers Party MLA from Sangola, was also present for the meeting, said sources.
Besides Pawar, his daughter Supriya Sule will seek re-election from the Pawar pocketborough of Baramati (western Maharashtra). Another member of the Pawar family, Parth Pawar — the son of Pawar’s nephew Ajit — is likely to win the party’s nomination from Maval (western Maharashtra).
Former Union minister Praful Patel’s name is being considered from the Bhandara-Gondia seat (Vidarbha), which the NCP had wrested with a bypoll win over the BJP in June, 2018. Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji’s heir, Udayanraje Bhonsle, and Dhananjay Mahadik, too, are expected to be renominated from Satara and Kolhapur (western Maharashtra), respectively.
Even as former deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal has indicated to the party that “he wasn’t keen on contesting the polls”, sources said that the NCP leadership has been egging him to enter the fray from Nashik (north Maharashtra). In Thane (Konkan), former state minister Ganesh Naik is expected to contest. His son Sanjeev Naik had contested the poll the last time, but lost.
NCP’s former state president Sunil Tatkare’s candidature from Raigad has already been finalised. Former state minister Dilip Sopal and Rajendra Shingane are the frontrunners to contest on the party ticket from Osmanabad (Marathwada) and Buldhana (Vidarbha), respectively. “Discussion on fielding party’s senior leaders are ongoing,” said Jayant Patil.
On Thursday, Pawar is set to chair a meeting in Mumbai to discuss the probable candidates and preparations for the Lok Sabha polls.
Pawar to contest from Madha: NCP spokesperson
NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakade on Wednesday claimed that party chief Sharad Pawar has made up his mind to contest from Madha constituency in Solapur.
“It has been finalised that our president will contest from Madha constituency,” Kakade, a close aide of Pawar, told The Indian Express on Wednesday.
He added that there were too many claimants from party tickets in Madha. “Probably, to avoid conflict among themselves, NCP leaders from Madha decided to urge Pawarsaheb to contest the seat,” he said.