Mukta Tilak, a descendant of freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, is all set to become the first citizen of Pune, with the BJP nominating her for the post of Pune Municipal Corporation’s mayor. Tilak, 51, has been elected to the PMC for the fourth consecutive time as a BJP corporator and carries forward the family legacy in politics. Her nephew Rohit Tilak, grandson of Jayantrao Tilak, is a Congress leader. He has contested the assembly elections on a Congress ticket twice, but failed to win. Jayantrao Tilak was the chairperson of the state Legislative Council. Incidentally, the post had eluded Mukta Tilak 10 years ago.
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In 2007, the BJP had put her up in the contest for the mayor’s post, in a hung house in the PMC. But Tilak withdrew from the contest as per a political strategy by the BJP, to ensure that the Suresh Kalmadi-led Congress was thrown out of power in the civic body. In the tussle for power, the Congress had then offered to support Mukta Tilak for the post of mayor, to keep the NCP out of power.
After a straight fight between NCP leader Rajlaxmi Bhosale and Congress leader Shailja Khedekar, the NCP come to power with direct support from the Shiv Sena, with the BJP supporting it indirectly by abstaining, to defeat the Congress candidate. By nominating Tilak, the BJP has tried to strengthen the party base through a member of the highly-respected Tilak family, so that the city, a bastion of Congress till a few years ago, becomes a BJP stronghold. Tilak has been representing the peth areas — the old and central parts of the city — in the PMC for the last 15 years.
The selection of Tilak by the BJP, over other candidates, also sends a clear message about the party rewarding loyalists, while newcomers have to wait and prove themselves. Many leaders, who had defected to the BJP before the civic polls, had been eyeing the post of mayor after the BJP won 97 of the 162 seats in the PMC. Mukta Tilak was born to Varsha and Vasant Limaye in Gwalior. Her father was in the Indian Navy while her mother was a teacher at the New English School in Pune. After completing her graduation from Fergusson College, she completed a MBA in marketing; she also holds a diploma in journalism and a certificate in German language.
Tilak, along with husband Shailesh, are involved in Kesari newspaper. Former MP Pradeep Rawat helped her join the BJP, while the late Gopinath Munde had helped shape her political career. She has been a member of the Standing Committee in PMC, vice-president of women’s wing, treasurer of city BJP and a member of the state BJP executive. She has represented the central parts of Pune in the PMC for the last 15 years. Her work includes forming the Lokmanya Vichar Manch and spreading thoughts of the freedom fighters. She had organised centenary year celebrations of Tilak’s statement “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it”. The event was attended by CM Devendra Fadnavis, among others.