At a time when support for tainted city MP Suresh Kalmadi’s candidature for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls is relatively low, the Congress yesterday sent its observer from Delhi to solicit the views of local party men and deliberate on the probable candidates for the general election. All the senior party workers and MLAs tried to avoid commenting on Kalmadi’s future in the party and claimed that they would be the most suitable party candidate for the election.
Party insiders, though, said that the MLAs who staked their claim before the party observer did not have a mass base in the city. Kevel Singh Dhillon was sent to the city by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi to hold meetings with the party men, MLAs, corporators and various party officials to know their choice of candidate.
MLC Mohan Joshi, a Kalmadi rival, claimed he would be suitable for the Congress ticket and, without mentioning anyone’s name, said that the party high command had taken a strict decision to curb corruption and if any tainted person expressed a desire to stand for election it would be a challenge to the high command’s decision.
Another anti-Kalmadi party leader, Anant Gadgil, said that he would be interested in any post which party would like to offer him. “Propaganda has been created that there is only one mass leader in the city, but one should consider the election result of the municipal corporation in the last years, where the party couldn’t perform well,” Gadgil said. “The party should also take into consideration the views of Puneites before giving the ticket to any candidate.”
Some party insiders said that the reason behind there being few Kalmadi supporters was that no one wanted to air their views in public. They said Kalmadi had already “fielded himself” at the ground level by visiting various parts of the city and meeting citizens. Kalmadi, who was suspended from the party following his arrest in April last year in connection with the Commonwealth Games scam, has already announced that he would contest the LS election from the city.
Senior leader Sharad Ranpise avoided talking about whether Kalmadi would be taken back into the party and said that he was confident that he would get the ticket from the party high command for the LS election. A similar assurance was made by former MLAs Chandrakant Chhajed and Chandrakant Shivarkar.