Explained: Why NCP chief Sharad Pawar opted out of Lok Sabha elections

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Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday startled everyone with his announcement that he will not contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The announcement was made after a meeting of the party leaders at Baramati Hostel in Pune. The declaration by Pawar was another U-turn after he said last month that he will contest the elections from NCP stronghold of Madha. While various theories are being discussed behind Sharad Pawars decision to withdraw from the race, a report in The Indian Express said that infighting within the party and family could be behind Pawars decision to opt out. It said that there was a disagreement among the family members on Pawar contesting the elections and the decision to stick by the formula of fielding only two members from the family. After Pawars withdrawal, it is now certain that party will field his grandson Parth Pawar from Maval constituency. Parth is son of former Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and grandson of Anantrao Pawar, Sharad Pawars elder brother. Speaking to The Indian Express last month, Parth Pawar, 29, had declared his intention to contest from Maval seat. Parth along with his father Ajit Pawar have been touring the constituency for the last one year. Maval is one of the four parliamentary seats in Pune Maval is one of the four parliamentary seats in Pune. The second member from Pawar family who will contest election is NCP chiefs daughter Supriya Sule. She will seek re-election from Baramati, a seat represented by the NCP chief between 2004 and 2009. Supriya had also won from here in 2009. In the 2014 polls, Supreya Sule had won from Baramati by a margin of 70,000 votes. Rashtriya Samaj Paksha candidate Mahadev Jagannath Jankar had given her a tough fight. The Rashtriya Samaj Paksha is a constituent of NDA and has already declared that it will take on the incumbent MP. While in the 2009 elections, Supriya Sule had won by a margin of over 3 lakh votes, Sharad Pawar had in 2004 defeated his nearest BJP rival by a margin of 4.22 lakh votes. Sharad Pawar doesnt want to take any risk in Baramati even though the people of the constituency bank heavily on him and his family members. Therefore, Pawar feels that it is important for him to campaign in Baramati for his daughter to prevent the opposition from toppling the NCP. Last month, after Pawar declared that he will contest from Madha, he went to address a rally in the constituency. During the rally in Phaltan, the two factions of the NCP indulged in a verbal spat, forcing Sharad Pawar to intervene. The intervention failed, turneing out to be a major embarrassment for him. Citing sources, the IE report said that Sharad Pawar thought if he couldnt bring the two factions together in his constituency, he will have to sweat it out in his stronghold. This would also not be in the interest of the party and would hurt the morale of party workers. In such a scenario, Pawar who is the star campaigner for NCP and its ally Congress in Maharashtra, will have to face the heat if he decides to restrict himself in one constituency. Sources told IE that if Sharad Pawar contests election from Madha, he will surely win but there is a possibility that the margin may reduce, which, according to him, will send a wrong message to the cadre. Sharad Pawar has so far contested 14 elections (Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha) and won by a margin of at least two lakh votes. The last time he had contested an election was in 2009 when he successfully won from Madha by a margin of 3.5 lakh votes. I have contested 14 elections and have never lost. I have never been anxious in all these elections and there is no reason why I should be now, he told reports on Monday trying to explain that fear of loss was not the reason behind his decision. Sources told IE that NCP sees Sharad Pawar as a potential candidate for the prime ministership and even a reduced margin of win will not be acceptable. In 2012, Pawar had announced retirement from active politics and didnt contest in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He was then elected to the Rajya Sabha. It is believed that it was Congress president Rahul Gandhi who advised Pawar not to vacate the Rajya Sabha berth to contest from Madha. As per the rule, a Rajya Sabha MP has to resign within 15 days if he wins a Lok Sabha seat. Pawars tenure in the Upper House is left for another two years and quitting the seat will not be good for the opposition as its strength is reducing effectively. NCP MP Vandana Chavan said that consideration over the Rajya Sabha seat could have indeed played a role in Sharad Pawars withdrawal from the electoral fray.

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