Mumbai, Jan 21 :
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will contest the ensuing biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha, a party official said here Tuesday.
He will file his nomination papers here Friday, Maharashtra NCP chief Bhaskar Jadhav said.
The countdown for the polls to elect 55 new members commenced Tuesday with the Election Commission issuing the formal notification.
Of the 55 seats falling vacant, Maharashtra has the biggest chunk of seven retiring members. They are Murli Deora and Hussain Dalwai (Congress), Y.P. Trivedi and Janardhan Waghmare (NCP), Bharatkumar Raut and Rajkumar Dhoot (Shiv Sena), and Prakash Javadekar (Bharatiya Janata Party).
From the NCP, Pawar will file his nomination as he has already announced his intention not to contest the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.
While Trivedi may be re-nominated, there are indications that senior party leader and noted criminal lawyer Majeed Memon is also a strong contender.
From the Congress and the BJP, their retiring members are expected to be re-nominated.
From the Shiv Sena, a strong contender is former Lok Sabha Speaker and ex-chief minister of Maharashtra Manohar Joshi, while the other seat is being eyed by its ally, Republican Party of India (A) chief Ramdas Athavale.
So far the Shiv Sena and BJP have not indicated whether thedy will support Athavale but a decision is expected shortly.
Besides the seven Rajya Sabha seats from Maharashtra, elections to the upper house will be held in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh (six seats each), West Bengal and Bihar (five each), Odisha and Gujarat (four each), Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (three each).
The other states to see polling are Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Jharkhand (two seats each), and Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur (one each).
Some prominent members retiring from different parts of the country include: Balbir Punj, G.K. Vasan, Jayanthi Natarajan, T. Subbarami Reddy, C.P. Thakur, Motilal Vora, Shanta Kumar and Rishang Keishing.
The elections are being held for the upper house seats falling vacant between April 2 and 14 this year.
The last date for filing nominations in Jan 28 while scrutiny will take place the following day and the last date for withdrawal is Jan 31.
Polling, if necessary, will be held Feb 7 and counting will be taken up the say day with the entire election process due to be completed by Feb 10.