Bhatia quits PNS over selection of candidates for PMC poll

Former bureaucrat with tough graft-fighter image leaves after others in Pune Nagrik Sanghatana reject his proposal to let people choose clean candidates, says he also has problems with citizen forum's 'not-too-transparent' way of collecting funds.

Retired  bureaucrat Arun Bhatia, who is known for his tough corruption-fighter image, has resigned from the Pune Nagrik Sanghatana (PNS), a citizens' forum that was formed recently with the aim of cleansing politics by backing clean candidates in elections. A fundamental difference of opinion during the first stage of selection of candidates for the upcoming civic elections made Bhatia take the decision.

Exacting Standards: Former civic chief Arun Bhatia. File pic

Let people choose
Bhatia said when PNS was formed he had been keen to join it but now he was unhappy as his proposal to have public participation in selection of candidates was not taken seriously. "I was insisting from the beginning that the method of selecting candidates should be systematic, transparent, with public participation; otherwise nobody will now who the PNS candidates are," he said. "Initially interacting with these people was quiet satisfactory and positive, till four to five meetings. But things started going wrong when issues of selecting and short-listing of candidates came up." During his days as the municipal commissioner of the city, Bhatia had launched a relentless crusade against corruption. After his retirement, joined politics and became known as tainted Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi's archrival.

Anti-graft plank
When PNS was established recently with the active involvement of yoga guru and anti-corruption activist Baba Ramdev's Bharat Swabhiman Trust and other NGOs in the city, Bhatia joined the forum as he believed his aims and those of the citizens' forum matched. Bhatia even attended and addressed the first five meetings to draw up an action plan for the Pune Municipal Corporation election scheduled in Februray. Bhatia was also working with social activists, including Vishwambhar Chaudhari, Maruthi Bhapkar, Manav Kamble and many others.
The former bureaucrat said his idea was that PNS should back candidates chosen by the people. "I was insisting that each good, clean candidate from a ward should be of people's choice. This impartial method would automatically help in promoting each candidate from PNS," he said. Bhatia's idea was reportedly rejected by PNS president Vivek Velankar and others.

Funds collection
The retired IAS officer said he even had problems with the way fund collection was being done. "Collection of funds for the purpose is also not too transparent and people may raise allegations. I don't want to get associated with the PNS, where nobody is following the proper procedure for running an organisation," he said. "Another suggestion of mine was to form a body of 50 members as a core group, but this was also ruled out."

Unfortunate: PNS
>> Vivek Velankar, president of PNS, said it was very unfortunate that there was a "difference of opinion between us about 15 days ago" and Arun Bhatia decided to leave us. "In any organisation, one should understand others and take a decision involving others as well, which he (Bhatia) was not ready to do," he said. "Bhatia's idea of forming of a 50-member core committee was not acceptable to others and therefore it was rejected in a meeting." 

Vivek Velankar, president, PNS

>> Vijay Varudkar, coordinator, PNS, said efforts would be made to get Bhatia back with the forum. "We won't let him go like this. We want PNS to benefit from his experience and wisdom. I shall go and persuade him to come back," he said.

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