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Sharad Pawar to handpick NCP’s Maharashtra president on April 29

Three leaders are said to be the frontrunners: Sunil Tatkare, incumbent state NCP president; Jayant Patil; and Shashikant Shinde.

mumbai Updated: Apr 23, 2018 00:39 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Sharad Pawar

With the 2019 elections around the corner, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is set to rejig its organisation in Maharashtra, its home turf. NCP chief Sharad Pawar is expected to handpick the state party president in a party meeting this week.

Three leaders are said to be the frontrunners: Sunil Tatkare, incumbent state NCP president; Jayant Patil, former home and finance minister; Shashikant Shinde, and former water resources minister (Krishna Valley Irrigation Corporation).

Tatkare is looking for another term even as senior leaders close to former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said he favoured Shinde. Patil’s name is also doing the rounds as he is said to be close to the party chief, and not considered to be in Ajit Pawar’s camp.

The decision is likely to be announced when the party’s working committee will meet in Pune on April 29. It will indicate whom Sharad Pawar trusts, ahead of the crucial 2019 elections.

He handpicks the state president, who is then said to be a unanimous candidate of the extended working committee that includes all elected representatives of the party and senior functionaries.

If Patil is picked for the job, it will be clear that the NCP chief wants a trusted senior leader, mentored by him. Others factor that may support Patil candidature are the recent Maratha agitation, his clean image and bid to check Ajit Pawar. By naming Patil, a senior Maratha leader, for the post, Sharad Pawar aims to underline his commitment to the community.

If Tatkare, an other backward class (OBC) leader, is asked to continue, it will denote that Sharad Pawar wants to maintain the caste balance. On the other hand, Shinde’s elevation will highlight junior Pawar’s growing influence and possible dominance during the upcoming polls. Shinde is from the Maratha community.

“He (Tatkare) led the party during crisis. We are now getting good response from people during the state-wide ‘Halla Bol’ agitation, which was started against the BJP government. Now, he certainly would like to reap benefits of his hard work,” said a senior party functionary.

After the irrigation scam, Tatkare, who was considered to be a confidante of Ajit Pawar, is said to have built a direct channel with the party chief. Tatkare succeeded MLA Bhaskar Jadhav after the party’s dismal performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He was appointed despite his name coming up in the multi-crore irrigation scam — one of the poll planks of the Opposition in the previous elections.

Tatkare said, “I am yet to make up my mind. Let the party decide on this, as we always take this decision unanimously. I am happy that I was given four years to work for the party.”

Patil is a senior leader from Sangli district of western Maharashtra and is among the second brass leadership created by the NCP chief. He was elected as an MLA for the first time in 1990 and has been winning from Islampur constituency in successive elections.

“Allegations of scam have badly affected the party’s performance in the 2014 elections. This time the party needs to be cautious over its faces,” said a former senior minister.

Patil was unavailable for comment.

Shinde, a two-term MLA from Satara district of western Maharashtra, said, “The decision has to be taken by the party, but I will be happy to take up this responsibility and. If given an opportunity, I will work with the best of my abilities.”

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 00:39 IST