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Rediff.com  » News » Out of fray Kalmadi still casts shadow on Pune contest

Out of fray Kalmadi still casts shadow on Pune contest

April 07, 2014 14:08 IST

After placating sitting MP Suresh Kalmadi who was sulking over denial of ticket, the Congress managers are confronted with a tough task of retaining the Pune Lok Sabha seat by overcoming the main challenge from a resurgent BJP in a quadrangular contest which is on cards.

Keeping in check dissensions and discontent in the faction-ridden city party unit, where the CWG scam tainted but resourceful Kalmadi still wields considerable influence, had not been an easy task for the Congress strategists.

Kalmadi, who made frantic efforts to get the party ticket for his wife, finally backed out and announced unconditional support to Congress nominee Vishwajeet Kadam.

The contest has become an interesting one with the entry of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Aam Aadmi Party in the fray even as Bharatiya Janata Party, riding high on a perceived "Modi wave", is keeping Congress on tenterhooks in their traditional bastion.

Vishwajeet, 33, president of Maharashtra Youth Congress, is the son of senior minister Patangrao Kadam. He faces a formidable opposition from BJP's city unit chief Anil Shirole who had lost the last election to Kalmadi by a narrow margin.

Congress is also worried about likely division of its traditional vote-share by former MLA and the MNS nominee Deepak Paigude and Subhash Ware of the AAP.

Although the BJP rejoiced at the Congress' predicament in salvaging its image for its association with Kalmadi, the saffron party suffered a setback at the beginning of campaign when sitting MLA and ticket aspirant Girish Bapat expressed dissent over Shirole's candidature.

The ticket row brought into sharp focus the political rivalry between Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari factions within the BJP. While Shirole is considered a supporter of Munde, Bapat is known for his allegiance to the Gadkari camp.

Ironically, it took almost a week for BJP to close its ranks and for Bapat to come out openly in support of Shirole.

When contacted, Shirole said Kalmadi did nothing for the people of city as MP.

"During his long tenure as three-time MP, Kalmadi tarnished image of Pune with the CWG scam. He never solved any of the civic problems like mushrooming of slums without amenities," Shirole said.

The campaigning for the Pune seat, which goes to polls on April 17, is mainly done on issues of corruption, good governance and secularism.

"Good governance and development are the main issues today and Modi is the only answer," Shirole said.

All the four main candidates have been putting a particular emphasis on solving nagging local issues such as bad shape of public transport and nightmarish traffic snarls, the implementation of proposed Metro project.

Other issues they are concentrating on are the menace of unauthorised constructions and long persisting hassles in effective disposal of city garbage in the absence of a high capacity processing plant to be installed at fringe villages serving as dumping grounds.

The filth in the river Mutha that flows through the city is an eyesore that had  brought out lamentations from visiting former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who held a meeting with the then Pune Mayor to find ways to remedy situation.

Meanwhile, replying to the criticism, Kadam said, "Congress has always acted against corrupt leaders and Kalmadi too was suspended following charges of irregularities. The Congress' election plan is secularism and inclusive growth. The Gujarat development model is highly exaggerated by BJP."      

Questions are raised over the law and order situation prevalent in the cultural capital of Maharashtra, which witnessed murder of eminent rationalist Narendra Dabholkar on August 20 last year. The case still remains unsolved.

Use of social media, staging of street plays and padayatras appear to be dominating the campaign of AAP's Subhash Ware who has a socialist background and a clean image in public life.

"Congress and BJP are not different and AAP offers a third alternative the people are looking for. Our fight is against corruption, money and muscle power. We want common man-centric politics and transparent governance," Ware said.

MNS candidate Deepak Paigude, considered a close to party chief Raj Thackeray and known for his grass root connect, is putting stress on door-to-door contact with voters.

When his view was sought, Paigude said, "We will aggressively implement the agenda of Raj Thackeray ensuring jobs and work opportunities to Marathi-speaking people and hammer out solution to various civic problems."

Also in the fray is activist and former IAS officer Arun Bhatia, who after unsuccessfully trying for AAP ticket, is contesting as the candidate of People Guardian Party, floated by himself in 2008.

However, the candidates hardly seem to have any convincing answers on tackling local problems that are assuming unmanageable proportion following a huge increase in the city's population, which is now touching five million mark.

The constituency comprises six Assembly segments namely Kothrud, Parvati, Cantonment, Wadgaon-Sheri, Shivajinagar and Kasaba peth.

While Cantonment, Shivajinagar and Wadgaon-Sheri segments are known to be traditional pockets of the Congress, the rest are considered favourable to the saffron alliance of the BJP and Shiv Sena. 

On political front, state and national leaders of the Congress are taking extra care to avoid any offensive reference to Kalmadi, maintaining that "everyone is innocent until proven guilty by law".      

However, party sources say Kadam, who met Kalmadi to seek his "blessings", is banking more on the NCP support than the city Congress unit which is said to harbouring some leaders who are disappointed over denial of ticket.

According to sources, Kadam can lean on NCP, precisely in Pune, because deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, a known detractor of Kalmadi, is now taking keen interest in Kadam's electioneering. However, insiders feel Kalmadi cannot be written off.

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