The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will, this time around, focus on the contributions made by its chief, Sharad Pawar, as the Union agriculture minister instead of harping on his qualification to become the prime minister of the country.
"The focus in this campaign will be on Pawar's contribution as a Union agriculture minister for over ten years," said Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson.
"Pawarsaheb has already declared that he is no more in the race for the PM's post. He has undertaken various works that have benefited farmers all over the country. And we are confident people will appreciate our leader's work and vote for NCP for the welfare of farmers. Our party also emphasize the need for maintaining a secular social fabric," Malik added.
NCP was formed in 2004 after many Congress leaders deserted that party saying party president Sonia Gandhi was a foreign citizen.
"NCP had then said Pawar should be made PM and to strengthen his hand, Maharashtrians should vote for that party. But the party, in 2004 and 2009, got only eight and nine seats, respectively. Maharashtra sends 48 MPs to parliament. Pawar wanted to develop NCP as a national party. However, its growth was restricted to mostly western Maharashtra," said political observer, adding that this time the party would have to deal with the anti-incumbency factor as well.
"Retaining the seats would be a big challenge for NCP. Whenever NCP has harped on making Pawar the PM, it has irked its allies, the Congress. So, it is better they stop it once and for all," said a Congress leader.
Surendra Jondhale, professor, political science, Mumbai University, told dna that it would be a futile exercise if NCP focused on Pawar's contribution as the agriculture minister. "I really don't know how they will then tackle the issue of farmers' suicide. The maximum number of farmer suicides took place in Maharashtra in spite of Pawar being the Union agriculture minister. In this polls, price rise and the recent destruction due to hailstorms would be the main issues. Actually, NCP should focus on how Pawar helped to change the agriculture policies in the state; how the minimum support price (MRP) of food grains and fruits had gone up," said Jondhale.
Also, NCP should put in efforts to get more of its members elected to the Lok Sabha. Only then will they have any bargaining power," Jondhale added.