The celebrations by Kalmadi loyalists on his arrival were so boisterous that anybody would have mistakenly thought the city MP had been taken back in the Congress.
Such was the enthusiasm displayed by Kalmadi’s supporters that it made Congress state president Manikrao Thakare say he had taken serious note of the events at the PMC.
Party MLA Ramesh Bagve, who is considered the right hand man of Kalmadi, hinted at the possibility of Kalmadi’s return in the Congress soon. “You just wait and watch how things will change soon,” he said.
Refuting Kalmadi loyalists’ claims that his grand welcome at the PMC opened up the possibility of his recall to the Congress, party state chief Thakare said that people should avoid drawing conclusions from the happenings at the PMC and that Kalmadi was on a personal visit to the PMC.
“He (Kalmadi) was there to attend a meeting related to sports. It was in his personal capacity,” Thakare said. “The party had not called party workers to remain present for this occasion. I am collecting information about what happened in the Pune Municipal Corporation on Monday afternoon.”
State Congress general secretary Anant Gadgil criticised the events of the day in strong language. “This is nothing but an open challenge to the Congress high command’s decision,” he said. “This is bound to affect party morale.”
Kalmadi inaugurated the Sports Committee Office in the PMC building and discussed civic issues with Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Pathak.
Over 200 Kalmadi supporters in the Congress were present to greet him in spite of the fact that the party high command had suspended the MP from the Congress in April last year. The suspension had following Kalmadi’s arrest by the CBI in connection with an alleged scam in the purchase of ‘Timing Scoring Report’ equipment for Rs 141 crore.
At the PMC, Deputy Mayor Deepak Mankar, former standing committee chairman Arvind Shinde, former mayor Kamal Vyavahre and MLA Bagwe openly spoke in favour of their leader.
City Congress president Abhay Chhajed remained absent during the entire duration of Kalmadi’s visit to the PMC. Even Congress MLC Mohan Joshi was not present. Chhajed, though, supported his party colleagues in the PMC.
“The events of the day did not go against any party rule or protocol because it was a personal visit by Kalmadi to the PMC,” Chhajed said. “I was busy elsewhere, and so I could not attend.”