At a time the NCP is plunged into a crisis due to a string of desertions ahead of the high-stake Maharashtra Assembly polls, party patriarch Sharad Pawar is setting out on a state-wide tour beginning September 17 to reach out to the party's rank and file. The veteran politician, 79, will visit ten districts of Solapur, Osmanabad, Beed, Latur, Hingoli, Parbhani, Jalna, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar and Satara in the first phase of the tour, the NCP said on Twitter.
The announcement came against the backdrop of exodus of key leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena. Senior party leader Udayanraje Bhosale, a descendant of warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, on Saturday became the latest entrant to the BJP camp.
The Satara MP has quit his Lok Sabha membership to join the BJP. On Friday, former Maharashtra unit NCP president Bhaskar Jadhav joined the Shiv Sena. "Pawar's tour will be crucial in view of the existing circumstances. His interaction with the grassroot workers, who have remained loyal to the party even as some leaders have deserted it, will boost their morale," said the leader.Pawar had fanned parts of his home state during the April-May Lok Sabha elections and addressed around 80 public rallies.
The NCP had managed to retain its 2014 tally of four LS seats in Maharashtra. Recently, former ministers Ganesh Naik, Sachin Ahir and Jaydutt Kshirasagar, MLAs Shivendrasinh Bhosale, Sandip Naik and Vaibhav Pichad to name a few switched their allegiance to the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena.
The NCP is fighting the upcoming Assembly elections in alliance with the Congress and some smaller parties. In the assembly elections held in 2014, the Sharad Pawar-led party had won 41 out of the total 288 seats.