With the State Assembly polls round the corner, rumour mills are abuzz with the candidacy of the crucial Indapur Assembly segment which forms part of the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, the bastion of the Pawar clan.A remark by senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar to his party colleague and sitting Indapur MLA Dattatrey Bharne, at a public event on Sunday has sparked renewed speculation over whether Mr. Bharne or senior Congress leader Harshawardhan Patil would be given a ticket from Indapur if the Congress and NCP contest the polls jointly.“I hope that our bonds [between the NCP and Mr. Bharne] of mutual affection will continue to endure in the future,” said Mr. Pawar to Mr. Bharne sarcastically, drawing mirth and laughter from those present.The Indapur Assembly seat has been the stronghold of Mr. Patil’s family. A former State cabinet minister for four consecutive terms, Mr. Patil has been winning from Indapur since 1995 before suffering a humiliating defeat at Mr. Bharne’s hands in the 2014 Assembly elections when both parties contested separately.Despite the bad blood between the Pawar and the Patil clans, aggravated by Mr. Patil’s loss in 2014, the NCP had sought to mollify the Congress leader to ensure that he campaigned for the re-election of NCP MP Supriya Sule, NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter and Ajit Pawar’s cousin, from Baramati Lok Sabha constituency.Given the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) — and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s — singular resolve to root out the Pawars’ influence from Baramati and western Maharashtra, Mr. Ajit Pawar had personally conferred with Mr. Patil at the latter’s residence in Pune to dispel any lingering disaffection the Congress leader may have harboured against the NCP.Mr. Pawar’s recent ‘taunt’ to Mr. Bharne is being interpreted as a sign that Mr. Patil could be given the ticket for his help in securing Ms. Sule’s victory. If so, it lends credence to the speculation that Mr. Bharne is on his way to joining the BJP.“There has always been a political competitition between the Pawars and the Patil family for dominance in Baramati and Indapur. In the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, Sharad Pawar, then with the Indian Congress (Socialist), had contested against Shakarrao Bajirao Patil, Harshawardhan Patil’s uncle and had trounced the latter. This rivalry had played out its course in the next political generation as well, between Ajit Pawar and Harshawardhan Patil,” says political analyst Rajendra Pandharpure.However, in view of the BJP’s massive mandate in this year’s general elections, and with Mr. Pawar’s party and the Congress facing a battle with their backs to the wall, Mr. Pandharpure said that old rivalry between the Pawars and Mr. Patil could mellow into an alliance dictated by political necessity.“Mr. Patil wields considerable influence over the Indapur and Bhor Assembly segments, whose collective votes played a critical role in ensuring Ms. Sule’s win in the general election. In the event of an NCP-Congress alliance for the upcoming Assembly poll, he would definitely be given preference over Mr. Bharne in return for his help to the Pawar clan,” he said.