Though Rahul Gandhi met party workers behind closed doors and preferred to keep the media at bay, deputy mayor Sunil alias Bandu Gaikwad said a signed statement of 22 out of 28 Congress corporators, requesting reinstatement of tainted city MP Suresh Kalmadi, had been submitted to the Congress vice-president. Gaikwad, who is a staunch supporter of Kalmadi, had reportedly tendered the letter to Rahul yesterday, when he met party workers from Pune, Konkan and Marathwada.
“I have clearly mentioned in my statement that there should be rethink on Kalmadi’s reinstatement only if he gets a clean chit from the courts,” said Gaikwad, the newly- elected deputy mayor of the city. Another Kalmadi backer and city vice-president of Congress Mukhtar Shaikh also pleaded Gandhi to offer the tainted MP a ticket for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
“I think that Kalmadi can be the only choice for Congress in Pune, and therefore I requested Rahul to consider this demand of party workers,” said Shaikh. However, according to sources the Amethi MP merely listened to these leaders without offering any assurances. Senior party leader and MLC Ulhas Pawar said that Rahul had asked workers to maintain discipline and avoid factionalism within the party.
“Many of the party leaders complained about the growing influence of NCP in the state, on which Rahul said that if the party manages to get more seats in the upcoming elections than 2009, then it would reduce Congress’s dependence on allies,” Pawar said. He also added that Rahul was firm on the need for action against those who ditch the party.
“He said these leaders should be punished in such a way that others could see the effects,” said Pawar. Former city mayor Kamal Vyavhare said that Rahul stressed more on the importance of block-level party workers than the ones who hold constitutional and other political posts. “We requested him for 50 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha, on which Rahul said that he was sure women could achieve better irrespective of quotas,” said Vyavhare.
Latur MLA and former state CM Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son Amit Deshmukh said he informed Rahul that the preparation for upcoming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections had already started in the city. Apart from this, Gandhi discussed the role of women in politics and urged party workers to understand women’s rights and responsibilities, and work hard for Congress.
Female party workers welcome Rahul with flurry of complaints
Fed up of the constant negligence on part of local leaders in addressing their concerns, female Congress workers from various districts greeted Rahul Gandhi with their protestations regarding the matter of their safety among other issues in their respective talukas. With questions ranging from recent incidents of molestation in their villages, to the request of conducting a training program for the new women members of Zilla Parishad, these workers felt their grievances went unheeded at the local level.
Unaware about the work protocol of national leaders, a newly elected ZP member of Satara district, Swati Bardade, said that Rahul was her only hope in resolving her concerns, as the local leaders were not bothered about these matters. “Since the last few months, 16 female party members, some of whom have been newly elected to ZP of Satara district, are requesting our leaders to arrange a training programme for us, which will give us a better idea about the day-to-day functioning of the ZP. However, even this simple request has been ignored,” said Bardade, who pleaded Rahul to settle the subject.
Former chairperson of the municipal council of Shirpur taluka of Dhulia district Anupama Tawar raised the issue of absence of teachers in the ZP schools, due to which the tribal students remained deprived from education. “Frequent cases of molestation are the another concern for us, which we shared with Rahul and he listened to our grievances very patiently,” added Tawar.