Pandharpur-Mangalwedha assembly byelection: NCP seeks support from 
ruling allies to retain seat

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) received a major blow after Shiv Sena’s Solapur district women wing chief Shaila Godse filed her nomination for the Pandharpur-Mangalwedha assembly byelection slated for April 17. Godse’s revolt posed a major challenge to the party, which has been banking on the support from its ruling partners Shiv Sena and Congress to retain the seat.

The byelection was necessitated following the death of sitting NCP legislator Bharat Bhalke due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NCP chief Sharad Pawar held talks with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state unit chief Jayant Patil last Sunday to decide the party’s nominee after the duo took feedback from the local party workers.

So far, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken a wait and watch policy. It will take a decision if Godse withdraws her nomination or decides to contest the bypoll notwithstanding the disciplinary action from Shiv Sena.

Godse had sought the candidature from her party in the last assembly election held in October, 2019, but it was denied. However, she has filed her nomination without waiting for the party's decision on whether it would support NCP or contest the byelection bypassing the alliance dharma.

Godse is the member of Solapur Zilla Parishad with a following in the Pandharpur-Mangalwedha belt. She has been at the forefront in various agitations. “I have filed the nomination because of the people’s support. I have been working in the assembly segment for the last 10 years. Even though I was denied a ticket last time, I continued my work. I will contest as an independent candidate,” she said.

Meanwhile, NCP leaders will soon meet Shiv Sena leaders with a plea to convince Godse to withdraw from the bypoll. Bhalke’s son Bhagirath Bhalke has been a top contender for the party nomination. Besides, Bhalke’s wife Jayashree Bhalke and Sudhakar Autade are also being considered by the party.

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