As they gear up for an electoral fight to establish their supremacy in the civic elections, political parties are trying to find a way to convince party veterans, who are keen on securing poll tickets, to give an opportunity to younger leaders. The local civic body is considered a good launching ground for anyone with major political aspirations. Incidentally, the Pune MP as well as eight legislators from the city, including guardian minister Girish Bapat, have been members of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) at some point of their political careers.
In the 2014 assembly and Lok Sabha elections, all political parties had opted to give party tickets to veteran leaders, to give them an opportunity to move on to a bigger political arena, while creating space for younger party workers at the local level. With the civic polls a little over a month away, all political parties are now facing the unenviable task of convincing veteran leaders to play the role of a guide, rather than contest the elections themselves.
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“There are many veterans who are seeking party tickets. We have been appealing to them to seek party tickets for a family member instead, but they are not ready to give up,” said a NCP leader.
In the 2012 PMC polls, two former city mayors and NCP leaders — Rajlaxmi Bhosale and Mohansingh Rajpal — lost in the election, despite their party emerging as the single largest party and retaining power in the civic body. “The defeat of veterans in the civic polls sent a wrong message… it made headlines, despite the party winning the maximum number of seats,” he said. The NCP veterans include Subhash Jagtap, who has been elected for five terms, and Dilip Barate, Balasaheb Bodke and Baburao Chandere, who are all seeking tickets for a fourth term.
The Congress is facing a similar situation, as many senior party corporators are not ready to stay away from the PMC elections. The party veterans include Kamal Vyavahare and Ulhas Bagul, who have been elected five times each; Vyavahare has served as the mayor of Pune, as well as the Congress’s state women’s wing chief, while Bagul held the deputy mayor’s post in the PMC.
“The party wants the youth leadership to emerge and fight aggressively to regain its lost pride. However, the veterans don’t want to take a backseat and give way to young aspirants,” said a Congress leader.
The BJP has its own share of senior leaders, with Ashok Yenpure, Mukta Tilak, Sunil Kamble and Ganesh Bidkar preparing to contest the elections for the fourth time. Many former corporators have also expressed a desire to make a comeback, as the party is riding high after its performance in the assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
“The leaders who made sure the party had a presence in the PMC, despite not being in power, are seeking a chance to contest the elections as there are high hopes about the BJP coming to power this time. A likely shot at holding office has prompted many former and sitting corporators to seek party tickets,” said a former BJP corporator, who lost in the 2012 civic polls and is seeking a party ticket for the forthcoming elections.
In comparison, the Shiv Sena and the MNS have fewer veterans to contend with. Senior Sena leaders such as Sachin Bhagat, Ashok Harnval, Prithivraj Sutar and Shyam Deshpande want to fight the civic polls. The MNS, on the other hand, will try to cash in on the experience of its senior leaders, as its popularity has been declining.