Putting to rest speculations of NCP President Sharad Pawar's candidature from Pune seat, a party leader on Saturday clarified that the party chief would not contest in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
NCP leader Jitendra Ahwad said Pawar had already made it clear in 2014 that he will not contest the Lok Sabha polls again.
"Pawar has told the party not to consider his name as he will not be a candidate. In today's meeting, Pawar said he is not in the (LS) race and nobody should propose his name," said the NCP MLA from Mumbra-Kalwa, in neighbouring Thane district.
Awhad also denied that the NCP chief had opposed the candidature of Parth Pawar, son of senior leader Ajit Pawar, for the Mawal Lok Sabha seat.
"Preliminary discussions are on. The name will be finalised after discussions with party workers," Ahwad said.
The former Union Agriculture minister is currently holding a two-day meeting with NCP leaders and functionaries at the party's state unit office to discuss candidates for the LS polls scheduled for next year. The meeting started Saturday morning.
Party sources said Pawar met party workers and leaders from Aurangabad, Raigad, Pune, Baramati, Shirur, Mawal, Nashik, Dindori, Dhule, Jalgaon, Raver, Parbhani, Beed, Kolhapur and Hatkanangle.
"He discussed probable candidates and assured that meritorious party workers would be given a chance. When party leader Ankush Kakade suggested that Pawar himself contest from Pune, he (Pawar) brushed off the suggestion saying he had already declared in 2014 that he would not contest Lok Sabha polls again," NCP sources said.
After the meeting, when party leader Chhagan Bhujbal was asked about the demand for Pawar to contest the 2019 LS polls, he said that he wished the NCP chief attained "a high post".
The NCP plans to stake claim to Jalna, Aurangabad, Dhule and Hatkanangle LS seats, all four of which had Congress candidates in 2014 as per the alliance agreement between the two parties.
The Hatkanangle LS seat is currently held by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana's Raju Shetti. He quit the NDA and allied with the Congress recently.
In another development, former Maharashtra NCP chief Sunil Tatkare told reporters that he was willing to step aside if Bhaskar Jadhav, another former state party chief, was keen to contest from Raigad Lok Sabha seat.
Tatkare had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Raigad, near here, against Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete. Geete is the the Heavy Industries Minister in the Narendra Modi government.
"I will work for his (Jadhav) win. If Jadhav is interested, I am willing to withdraw. I am not interested in contesting Lok Sabha polls. More than my candidature, I want to ensure victory of a secular government. If Jadhav is interested, I am supporting him," Tatkare said.
The NCP has demanded a 50-50 seat-sharing formula for the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats in its alliance talks with the Congress.
The two parties had entered into an alliance in 2014 and the Congress contested 27 seats while the NCP put up candidates on 21 LS seats.
(With PTI inputs)