Congress has managed to ward off likely embarrassment it would have faced from anti-Suresh Kalmadi faction,by removing photographs of the tainted MP from its offices in city.
The anti-Kalmadi group led by city unit vice president Deepak Mankar,the former deputy mayor and Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) member,had set Friday as the deadline to city Congress unit chief Abhay Chhajed,a known Kalmadi loyalist,to remove Kalmadi’s photographs in various party offices including the Congress Bhavan.
Despite his suspension in the wake of Commonwealth Games scam,Kalmadi still wields influence on party politics in PMC with a sizable following among party corporators.
Mankar had threatened to forcibly pull down Kalmadi’s photos if his demand is not met,but the office-bearers blinked on Friday.
Kalmadi’s photos which hitherto were adorning walls of Congress offices,are now replaced with those of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi and the symbol of hand.
The episode has brought to the fore a simmering discontent within the city party unit,which many feel is still dominated by Kalmadi supporters.
However,unfazed by the development which is viewed as a move to isolate him,Kalmadi who has made no secret of his desire to contest Lok Sabha seat next year,provided he comes out clean,has played down the incident.
“Those concerned should remove my photographs from their respective offices. I am in the heart of citizens and so it does not make any difference if my photographs are removed from PMC offices. I have won Pune Lok Sabha seat many times due to the support of activists and trust of citizens. I have always focused on development of the city and would be committed to do it in future”,Kalmadi said.
Mankar,who last week had a verbal clash with Kalmadi,said removal of photos from various offices was necessary and is in the interest of the party.
“I am happy it has been done as it was necessary for the party to keep distance from persons facing corruption charges.
Kalmadi has brought shame to the party and citizens of Pune”,he said.
Annoyed over the remote control Kalmadi seems to be having on the city party affairs through loyalist office-bearers,Congress workers have been asked by MPCC leaders to avoid proximity with him at public functions in the city,according to party sources.
Opponents of Kalmadi have now intensified their campaign to cut out his clout with a new demand of disallowing him to use ” Marathon Bhavan” of PMC which they alleged,was converted into Kalmadi’s public relations office.