After the Congress and NCP were whitewashed across all the constituencies in Pune city in the assembly polls, it now remains to be seen how the two parties intend to pick up the pieces and retain their hold on the Pune Municipal Corporation.
With BJP’s clean sweep in both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the city, mid-day has attempted to find
out how this will change political equations here.
And the most pertinent question is — will their parties’ crushing defeat at the hands of the BJP ultimately serve to reunite the estranged Congress and NCP?
Will it end the long political rivalry between Ajit Pawar and Suresh Kalmadi, and force the two leaders to patch up at the local level, to maintain their influence on the PMC?
The election debacle resulted in the defeat of several bigwigs from both the NCP and the Congress, many of whom are known to keep close relations with either Pawar or Kalmadi.
Amongst them is Congress city president and senior corporator, Abhay Chhajed, who lost against BJP’s Madhuri Misal in Parvati by a massive margin – 69,090 votes, the largest ever margin in the city - yesterday tendered his resignation, taking responsibility for his party’s defeat in the city. During the Kalmadi regime, Chhajed was considered as a close aide.
But when this reporter asked him what steps the party was planning to take to avoid repeating the dismal results in the Corporation elections scheduled for 2017, and whether the party would patch up with the NCP, Chhajed’s response seemed nonchalant. “The future direction will be decided by both parties’ top brass in Mumbai. Anyway, corporation elections are very far in the future, and by that time, it will also become clear how many promises sold by Modi and BJP are fulfilled,” he said.
Regarding the NCP-Congress alliance’s policies about development issues in PMC, he said, “We are already pursuing developmental issues, and will continue our practice.”
Interestingly, another senior Congress corporator had exactly the opposite opinion. “Yesterday’s result was alarming, and indicates that we have to change our priorities and focus on the development of the city. If we do not make this change now, after two and half years, in the PMC elections, voters will change all of us,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
PMC standing committee chairman Bapu Karne, who represents the NCP, said, “Kalmadi has retained no role in city politics. But yes, we have to think on the lines of uniting with Congress on each and every issue related to the development of the city. Though both parties fought separately in Assembly elections, I don’t think it has hampered our relations with Congress.
But one thing is for sure - we have to pursue politics of development before we can face the Corporation elections in 2017.”
Even Shiv Sena senior leader, Neelam Gorhe, who is well-informed about the local political dynamics, said yesterday’s results has ended the dominance of the Pawar-Kalmadi duo in the city.
“Yes, the local political equations have changed, and not only in PMC. All zilla parishads and panchayat samitis also have to perform. People are now observing the performance of local governing bodies as well.”
Senior NCP leaders in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad have already admitted that apart from the Modi wave’s effect, there is clearly an anti-NCP wave here as well, further decimating the party’s hold on power. Some now fear that their dismal performance in the Assembly polls points is an indication that they may lose power in the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation as well, and have emphasised on the need to make major changes in the party’s internal structure.