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The Hindu
The Hindu
Shoumojit Banerjee

It’s Pawar vs Pawar in Baramati: Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra fielded against Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule

The ruling Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party on Saturday officially announced the name of Mr. Pawar’s wife, Sunetra Pawar, as the Mahayuti’s candidate for the high-stakes Baramati Lok Sabha seat in Pune district.

While Ms. Sunetra Pawar’s name was long expected, it was formally announced by NCP (Ajit Pawar faction) State chief Sunil Tatkare.

Ms. Sunetra will be pitted against Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, the incumbent Baramati MP, whose candidature was also announced on March 30 in the first list of five Lok Sabha candidates put out by the Opposition NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) faction.

Besides Ms. Sule, the other seats and candidates announced by NCP (SP) State chief Jayant Patil are — Amol Kale (Wardha), Bhaskar Bhagare (Dindori), Dr. Amol Kolhe (Shirur) and Nilesh Lanke (Ahmednagar).

A three-term MP from Baramati, Ms. Sule’s candidature for the Pawar clan’s stronghold was already declared by her father Sharad Pawar some time ago.

Both Ms. Sule and Ms. Sunetra have thrown themselves into the Baramati poll campaign, given that this Lok Sabha seat is arguably the most keenly contested of all 48 seats in Maharashtra.

A number of developments preceded the announcement of Ms. Sunetra’s candidacy with ruling Mahayuti (Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena, the BJP and Ajit Pawar’s NCP) gaining success on resolving the internecine strife over not just Baramati, but other key Lok Sabha seats as well.

Ajit Pawar critic pacified

Earlier in the day, Vijay Shivtare, the senior Eknath Shinde-camp leader and former two-term MLA from Purandar (part of Baramati), who had vowed to make things tough for his ally Ajit Pawar by proposing to enter the Baramati fray as a third challenger, publicly announced that he would not be contesting the seat.

A bitter rival of Ajit Pawar who had publicly called for the overthrow of the Pawar clan in Baramati some days ago, Mr. Shivtare was finally pacified after a nighttime meeting with CM Shinde, Mr. Ajit Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis who prevailed on him to obey ‘coalition dharma’.

Speaking to reporters today, Mr. Shivtare now pledged to campaign in full strength for Mr. Ajit Pawar’s candidate while assuring that over 1.5 lakh votes will now be given to the ‘clock’ symbol (of the NCP) from Purandar Assembly segment.

In another important move, the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction announced the candidature of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) chief Mahadev Jankar for Parbhani Lok Sabha seat.

Mr. Jankar, a Dhangar (shepherd) community leader who wields considerable influence in Baramati, had given Ms. Sule a stiff fight during the 2014 Lok Sabha contest.

However, despite being a BJP ally, Mr. Jankar was disgruntled with the ruling dispensation of late.

There was much speculation on whether he would switch sides to the Sharad Pawar-led NCP (SP) after Pawar senior had offered to field him from Madha Lok Sabha seat in Solapur.

However, after being placated by the Mahayuti leaders, Mr. Jankar remained within the ruling coalition after being promised the Parbhani seat. The quelling of the potential revolts of Mr. Shivtare and Mr. Jankar has made things easier for Ms. Sunetra in the upcoming electoral fight.

In Kolhapur, the Mahayuti effected another reconciliation after bitter rivals, Minister Hasan Mushrif (of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP) and the BJP’s Samarjitsinh Ghatge finally came together and pledged that they would work to ensure the victory of Shinde Sena candidate Sanjay Mandlik.

Concerns in Opposition ranks

Meanwhile, the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) struggled to quell schism within its ranks. The Congress is having a hard time in Ramtek seat (which goes to polls in the first phase on April 19) after Congressman and ex-IAS officer Kishore Gajbhiye today said he remained firm on contesting the seat as an Independent.

Rifts within the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena (UBT) continued to persist over the Sambhajinagar seat amid rumours that Thackeray confidante Ambadas Danve was planning to defect to the Mahayuti. However, Mr. Danve categorically refuted the speculation, clarifying he was not upset at having been denied a ticket in lieu of Chandrakant Khaire, who has been named as the Sena (UBT)’s candidate.

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