In the run up to the Lok Sabha (LS) and state assembly elections slated for 2019, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will elect new president for Maharashtra unit. Former finance minister and party leader in the state Assembly, Jayant Patil and former minister for Krishna Valley Development, Shashikant Shinde are frontrunners for the post. NCP has convened a meeting of the party delegates on April 29 at Pune for the proposed change of guard.The present state unit chief and former water resources minister, Sunil Tatkare had got two terms since 2014. He is expected to be nominated from the Raigad LS seat in 2019 poll. NCP’s move to elect new president comes at a time when the party has proposed to strike pre-poll alliance with Congress to jointly take on BJP in the state. The new state unit chief will have to strive for increasing party’s tally from 42 in the state Assembly and four in the LS. Besides, the new president will have to rebuild trust with Congress as both the parties had parted ways to go solo in the 2014 Assembly poll.NCP leader, who is currently associated with the election process, said, “Party has completed ‘halla bol’ agitation against agrarian distress and unemployment in Vidarbha, Marathwada, north Maharashtra and western Maharashtra. Soon it will be held in the Konkan region. This is a part of NCP’s strategy to revive its base and reach out to voters for consolidation. Election of new state president is due as Tatkare has enjoyed two terms of two years each. Party under the new chief along with the Congress party will go whole hog to oust BJP.”Former NCP minister said the new state president has his task cut out. “Party’s image of scamsters will have to be changed. Besides, the new chief will have to strengthen party unit at all 92,000 booths across Maharashtra by giving opportunity to young and newcomers replacing the old and tired ones,” he added.Patil, who has been quite vocal against the BJP-led government in and outside the state legislature, comes from the sugarcane rich Sangli district in western Maharashtra. He was elected to the state Assembly for the first time in 1990 and has been winning from the Islampur-Walva constituency in successive elections. He left Congress to join NCP after it was formed in June 1999 and held the ministries of finance, home and rural development between 1999 and 2014.As far as Shinde is concerned, he hails from the NCP stronghold Satara district in the western Maharashtra and has been loyalist of NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Shinde has been member of the state Assembly since 1999. Besides, Shinde has been a working president of Mathadi Workers Union. NCP enjoys sizable support from Mathadi workers, whose operations include loading unloading stacking, carrying, weighing.
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