NCP to field Jagtap in Maval, faces challenge from split Sena

Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has almost finalised the name of Laxman Jagtap from the Maval Lok Sabha constituency. An associate MLA of NCP from Chinchwad Assembly constituency, Jagtap will face the Shiv Sena challenge in the constituency where the saffron party is divided into at least three groups.

Jagtap's name was finalised at NCP's internal meeting held in Mumbai on Monday and was widely believed to be a forgone conclusion. "Names of only two candidates, Jagtap and Sanjog Waghere, were discussed. Party leaders from Panvel, Uran, Karjat and Maval said they were in support of Jagtap. Therefore, it is clear that Jagtap will get the party's ticket," said Yogesh Behl, NCP Pimpri-Chinchwad president.

In fact, for a months now, except Jagtap none of the NCP leaders from the area made any effort to stake claim or project themselves. Waghere, too, never made his intentions clear about contesting the Maval LS seat. NCP leaders said they were surprised his name cropped up at the Mumbai meeting.

Sounding confident, Jagtap said he has been working on winning the Maval seat. "I knew I will have to bag the seat for the party, I am well-prepared for it," he said.

The Jagtap camp points out that in the last LS polls, he was a strong contender to contest from Maval. "However, Azam Pansare, who then headed NCP's Pimpri unit, put pressure on Pawar, projecting himself as the party's Muslim face. Pawar gave in and the party lost a seat, which belonged to it," said Jagtap's close associate.

Jagtap has proved his popularity twice in the past few years when he won the election first as MLC and then as MLA. Both times, he was not the party's official candidate yet managed to win with thumping majority. First, he won the MLC seat though the Congress had fielded its official candidate as per the seat-sharing arrangement. In the Assembly elections five years ago, the Chinchwad seat was with the Congress, which forced Jagtap to contest as an Independent. He trounced Shrirang Barne of the Shiv Sena with a big margin of votes.

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