Rajya Sabha bypoll: Sunetra Pawar front-runner for NCP; Bhujbal, Siddique other aspirants

Mumbai, Jun 11 (IANS): Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra Pawar, who lost to her sister-in-law Supriya Sule from Baramati constituency in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, is the front-runner for the by-election to the Rajya Sabha slated for June 25.

In addition, veteran OBC leader and cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal and former minister Baba Siddique are also aspiring for their elevation to the Rajya Sabha. NCP sources said that the party leadership is to zero in on Sunetra Pawar's name.

The last date for filing nomination is June 13 and the party is expected to take a final decision in a day or two. In this regard, senior leaders including Working President Praful Patel and state unit chief Sunil Tatkare also held talks with party chief Ajit Pawar on Tuesday.

In the Lok Sabha election, Supriya Sule secured 7,32,312 votes while Sunetra Pawar got 5,73,979 votes.

The Rajya Sabha by-election was necessitated as NCP Working President Praful Patel resigned after being re-elected to the Upper House in February. He replaced Vandana Chavan in the Rajya Sabha, who completed her tenure in April. Patel was nominated by Ajit Pawar-led NCP as he was facing a disqualification petition filed by the Sharad Pawar-led NCP.

A veteran NCP leader said, "The legislators and senior party leaders have unanimously proposed Sunetra Pawar's name for the RS by-election. She will get almost four years up to June 2028. Sunetra Pawar's election will checkmate the growing clout of NCP-SP chief Sharad Pawar and her daughter Supriya Sule, especially in Baramati ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections slated for September-October this year."

"Besides, it will also tackle the NCP-SP's move to nominate Yogendra Pawar against Ajit Pawar in the upcoming Assembly election from the Baramati assembly seat. Incidentally, Yogendra Pawar is the son of Ajit Pawar's brother Srinivas Pawar," he added.

He further said that Ajit and Sunetra Pawar combine will help to mobilise the support and shore up additional votes against NCP-SP.

Another leader said that Sunetra Pawar as the Rajya Sabha member will be able to bring in more funds from the Centre and the state government for Baramati. "This will also give the party an upper hand in projecting its pro-development plank vis-a-vis NCP-SP and Supriya Sule's agenda to scale up the development of the constituency," he noted.

Bhujbal and Siddique have made a strong case for their nominations citing that luring OBCs and Muslims, who along with tribals have deserted the NCP during the Lok Sabha elections, is needed in the run-up to the Assembly elections.

Bhujbal has been at the forefront to take on the pro-Maratha activist Manoj Jarange Patil and he has argued that his nomination will help bring back the OBCs to the party fold.

On the other hand, Siddique, who recently quit Congress and joined NCP, has been strongly arguing that the party will have to step up outreach to Muslims and convince them that it has not left its ideology of Shiv Phule Shau Ambedkar despite joining the BJP-led NDA at the Centre and MahaYuti in Maharashtra.

Siddique has told the party leadership that he would be in a position to increase the party's base in the Muslim community which is essential to get their votes in the Assembly elections.


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Title: Rajya Sabha bypoll: Sunetra Pawar front-runner for NCP; Bhujbal, Siddique other aspirants

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