MUMBAI : Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar may return to contesting the Lok Sabha election from the Madha constituency in Solapur district, senior NCP leader Praful Patel said here on Thursday.

Patel told reporters that the NCP rank and file had requested Pawar to contest from Madha as there was a groundswell of sentiment for the veteran leader among people and party workers.

"All party functionaries and workers are insisting that Pawar saheb contest the next general election from Madha and we have made a request to this effect at today's meeting. We believe that Pawar saheb would concede to our request " Patel said.

Pawar's nephew and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the NCP chief would soon announce his decision.

Last week, BJP president Amit Shah and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis exhorted party cadres to win the Baramati Lok Sabha seat in 2019. Baramati has been Pawar’s pocket borough for decades.

On Thursday, Pawar presided over a meeting of senior NCP functionaries and leaders to discuss the party's preparations and strategy for the forthcoming Lok Sabha election.

Pawar's likely return to the Lok Sabha arena is significant since he himself had announced just ahead of the 2014 polls that he would henceforth not contest. Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule contested and won from Baramati near Pune in 2014. Sule was among the only four NCP candidates who won in 2014 against the Modi wave that helped the BJP-Shiv Sena win 41 of 48 seats in Maharashtra.

Pawar's keenness to contest the Lok Sabha election indicated the NCP'S desire to do better in Maharashtra than it did in 2014, said a senior NCP functionary requesting anonymity. "If Pawar saheb is in the electoral arena, it would enthuse party workers and charge up other NCP candidates also," said the NCP functionary.

The NCP is also keen that Pawar returns to the Lok Sabha in 2019 given the "climate of political uncertainty". "Pawar saheb was the first senior politician who in 2017 itself called for all secular and like-minded parties to come together against Modi. Since then he has been working with other parties and leaders to forge a coalition against the BJP. There is a climate of political uncertainty in the country but one thing is clear. Modi is not going to return as the prime minister in 2019. So we feel Pawar saheb should be in the Lok Sabha to play a more direct role in government formation," stated the NCP leader.

Pawar, 77, has been reaching out to other anti-BJP parties over the last several months and has stepped up his efforts to bring together as many parties as possible in the last four months. On Wednesday, Pawar held a meeting with other opposition leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, at his Delhi residence. 

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