Stealing a march over other mainstream parties, the NCP on Thursday announced its first list of 18 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls with PWD minister and former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal replacing nephew Sameer as the party nominee from Nashik. The NCP has also changed candidates on all seats from where it had lost in 2009.
NCP chief and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Madha in 2009, will not contest this time. He been elected to the Rajya Sabha. Former deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite Patil will contest from Pawar's seat.
The NCP, which has eight MPs from Maharashtra, will contest 22 of the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats, leaving the rest for the Congress.
Apart from Pawar and Sameer Bhujbal, who will make way for his uncle, an OBC leader, the NCP has decided to repeat all sitting MPs like Praful Patel (Bhandara-Gondia), Udayanraje Bhosale (Satara), Supriya Sule (Baramati), Sanjeev Naik (Thane), Dr Padamsinh Patil (Osmanabad) and Sanjay Dina Patil (Mumbai North East).
The other candidates will be actress Navneet Kaur Ravi Rana, who is independent MLA Ravi Rana's wife (Amravati), Radhakrishna Ingle (Buldhana), Vijay Bhamble (Parbhani), Bharti Pawar (daughter in law of veteran legislator AT Pawar) (Dindori), Rajiv Rajale Patil (Ahmednagar), Devdutt Nikam (Shirur), former deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite Patil (Madha), Dhananjay (Munna) Mahadik (Kolhapur), MLC Manish Jain (Raver) and former minister Dr Satish Pawar (Jalgaon).
Shiv Sena MP Anand Paranjape, who switched sides to the NCP, will also contest from Kalyan.
The NCP has not yet declared nominees from seats like Beed, which is represented by senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde, Hatkanangale, Maval and Hingoli (which it is likely to exchange with the Congress for Raigad where water resources minister Sunil Tatkare is tipped off to be the NCP candidate against the Sena's Anant Gite). The NCP may declare candidates on these seats next week.
The NCP had also refused to relinquish its claim on the Kolhapur seat where the NCP's Yuvraj Sambhajiraje Chatrapati was trounced by NCP rebel Sadashivrao Mandlik in 2009. Mandlik later threw in his lot with the Congress and is eager to get support from the Shiv Sena for his son Sanjay to contest the polls.