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NCP hopes third-gen Pawar will unseat Shiv Sena from Maval with ‘family magic’

Parth Pawar has been fielded by the NCP from the Maval parliamentary constituency, which has been with the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance since 2009.

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Mumbai: Sharad Pawar, chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), contested and won his first election in 1967. His nephew, Ajit Pawar, too, was victorious in his electoral debut in 1991. In 2009, Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, who had earlier been elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha, repeated history, contesting and winning her first direct election from Baramati, the NCP chief’s home turf.

None of the three Pawar leaders has lost a single election ever since.

Ten years on, a fourth member of the Pawar family, Parth, the 29-year-old son of Ajit, who is a former Maharashtra minister, is set to enter the electoral arena from a parliamentary constituency where the NCP’s rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena, have gained strength over the past few years.

Maval is not exactly a cakewalk for the NCP like Baramati, but party leaders are confident that the Pawar family’s unbeaten winning streak will continue. Maval, they are sure, is a second Baramati in the making.

“Nobody from the Pawar family has lost an election,” political analyst Prakash Bal said. “The ground situation may have changed, but, generally speaking, it is very difficult for anybody from the Pawar family to lose. They pull all their weight behind the candidate and it is a prestige issue for them.”

A second Baramati

Although the NCP and ally Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) have a decent presence in Maval, the constituency is currently held by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Carved out as an individual parliamentary constituency in 2008, Maval is one of four Lok Sabha seats in the Pune district, along with Baramati, Pune City and Shirur.

It has been with the Shiv Sena since 2009, and the party is likely to renominate incumbent MP Shrirang Barne from Maval this election.

Five of the six assembly segments that comprise the constituency are either with the BJP or the Shiv Sena. The sixth, Karjat, is held by the NCP — the party has held the segment for two consecutive terms, before which the seat was with the BJP for three.

The BJP has also won civic elections in some cities under the Maval constituency since 2014, sweeping the Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporation, which the NCP had held for 10 years.

What may, however, swing the situation in the NCP’s favour is the PWP’s support for Parth’s candidature.

The PWP, led by former state minister Jayant Patil, has a strong presence in segments such as Panvel and Uran and pulled a significant number of votes in the Maval Lok Sabha seat in 2014. The NCP and the PWP, which together won 5.37 lakh votes, could have defeated Sena’s Barne, who got 5.12 lakh.

“The major reason that has caused the NCP’s disintegration in the constituency until now is the NCP itself,” said a senior NCP leader who did not wish to be named.

“There was a lot of infighting at the ground level, multiple factions within the party, largely because we never had a strong local candidate,” the leader added. “Now, all local factions are rallying behind Parth. They know that if we want to create a second Baramati here, then there is no alternative to him,” he said.

Also read: After 50 years in politics, Sharad Pawar hangs up his boots — for now

The rise of Parth Pawar

Parth is a commerce graduate from Mumbai’s HR College. While this election marks his debut, as Ajit’s son, he has always been on the fringes of political activity.

Ajit’s wife Sunetra is known to look after his constituency, meeting voters, attending events, holding meetings and so on.

Over the past two years, Parth was actively involved in this work as well, trailing his mother and attending functions in her absence.

“Over the past few months, he has taken over the social media activity of his father, deciding what to post, when to post, and how to post it,” said a former NCP legislator. “That is how Ajit dada’s likes and social media activity increased. Otherwise, Ajit dada (‘dada’, elder brother in Marathi, is how Ajit is widely referred to) was never that tech-savvy,” the former legislator added.

Parth, say NCP insiders, presents a very different image from that of the “rustic” Ajit. He is fluent in English, very outgoing, and has a strong network of friends.

He had started laying the ground for his candidature even before grandfather Sharad Pawar, a seven-term former Lok Sabha member, bowed out of the 2019 race and pushed Parth’s candidature instead.

Over the past few months, Parth has often been seen at rallies with the NCP chief, and also started touring the six assembly segments in Maval.

“He would sit down and observe big rallies to learn from them,” the NCP legislator said.

Parth’s candidature not only marks the continuation of the Pawar political dynasty into its third generation, but also helps strengthen his father Ajit’s position within the party as second only to the NCP chief.

‘No cause for worry’

Parth kicked off his poll campaign Sunday with a grand rally at Pimpri-Chinchwad, the erstwhile NCP bastion.

“We should put all the work that we have done in front of people and make sure it reaches them,” he added, speaking in a soft, even tone, unlike the typically loud rhetoric of politicians.

“The responsibility that I have been given in Maval, I will try to make it like a Baramati and Pimpri-Chinchwad,” he said.

“While doing so, I will have the support of respected Pawar saheb, Ajit dada and all the senior leaders of the party, so there is no cause for worry,” he added.

Also read: How Congress & NCP evolved into an aggressive, united opposition in Maharashtra

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