Maval Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra has suddenly seen a rise in its profile as NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s grand nephew Parth Pawar is contesting his maiden election from this seat against Shiv Sena’s sitting MP Shrirang Barne. While the entry of a third generation leader from the Pawar family has churned local politics, Barne has dismissed Parth’s challenge, saying the NCP lacks organisation in the constituency which is spread from Pimpri in Pune district to Panvel in Raigad district neighbouring Mumbai.

Countering Barne, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) feels Parth will get votes from diverse sections of people who appreciated the work done by Parth’s father and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in developing the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC).

An NCP leader said the party activists who had shifted their loyalty to the BJP and the Sena during and after the 2014 polls, are eager to back the Pawar scion.

The constituency with 22 lakh voters comprises six assembly segments–Pimpri, Chinchwad and Maval in Pune district, Uran, Panvel and Karjat in Raigad district.

Dismissing anti-incumbency and voter fatigue, Barne said Parth’s only qualification is that he comes from the Pawar clan.

“People of Maval will never accept the NCP. Parth does not have any involvement in social activities. He doesn’t have any contact with the people and lacks understanding of local issues,” Barne said while referring to Parth’s maiden poll speech wherein he spoke from a written text and fumbled many times.

The NCP, which has a strong presence in Pune district, has failed to register victory in the constituency since it was formed in 2008 after delimitation. The Sena has won two Lok Sabha elections held since then.

“Nobody is disappointed with my work. I have been implementing a lot of schemes of the Central and state governments. I have resolved various issues from water shortage to railway connectivity. A new passport office has also been set up,” Barne said.

He said the issues pertaining to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai, new airport, agricultural issues and those related to unauthorised constructions under the PCMC still remained unresolved.

NCP Pune district president Pradip Garatkar said the youth from the constituency were seeking Parth’s candidature as they wanted a young face with a clean slate to represent them.

He said Parth’s entry into the poll fray will end factionalism in the party.

Crediting Ajit Pawar for making the PCMC the “number one civic body in Asia”, the NCP leader said the PCMC was developed in a “planned and perfect” manner due to his vision.

Garatkar said the NCP lost 2014 general elections only due to the “Narendra Modi wave”.

“Many leaders and corporators from the NCP who rose to higher ranks due to Ajit Pawar had joined the BJP then,” he said, adding that these leaders are now disillusioned with the BJP and wanted Ajit Pawar to be in the saddle.

Garatkar claimed these party workers would work hard to elect Parth.

Refuting Barne’s claim that the NCP lacks any base in Maval, he said the scenario is changing in favour ofthe party in areas under PCMC and also in Panvel, Uran and Karjat, neighbouring Mumbai.

The Shetkari KamgarPaksh, which has a strong presence in Raigad district, has extended its support to the Congress-NCP combine in the elections.

When asked about Parth’s political acumen, Garatkar said he has a rich legacy and has seen politics from close quarters in his family.

He also conceded that Parth, who educated from a convent school, has been honing his skills to speak Marathi language.

“When Sharad Pawar contested the Lok Sabha election in 1984, Ajit Pawar had not even entered politics but he had started campaigning for him. In one such rally near Baramati, some party workers asked Ajit Pawar to address the gathering and they made him stand on the bonnet of a jeep,” Garatkar said while stressing that Parth has been doing well despite being a greenhorn in politics.

“When Ajit Pawar stood on the bonnet, he was trembling and some party workers had to hold his legs so that he can complete his speech,” he recalled.

For Barne, the stand of BJP MLA from Pimpri Laxman Jagtap is a factor to pay attention to.

The MLA is not in good terms with the Sena MP.

However, after intervention of senior BJP leader Girish Mahajan, Barne and Jagtap held a joint press conference Monday to announce that they are together.

Camil Parkhe, a journalist cum political expert from the PCMC area, said the Maval contest is a battle of prestige for the Pawars.

“It will be a close contest. This time, the NCP is leaving no stone unturned. Ajit Pawar himself is reaching out to voters for his son,” he said.