The Lok Sabha election may still be a year away, but political activities in the city are heating up, with many BJP leaders eyeing the big prize — a party ticket to contest from Pune. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, BJP MP Anil Shirole had won the Pune seat with a record margin after defeating Congress’s Vishwajeet Kadam. His victory had paved the way for the party’s next big win in the city, in the assembly election held later that year, when the BJP won all eight assembly seats in Pune. Last year, the party managed to win 100 seats in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) polls, coming to power in the civic body for the first time.
With their focus on the Lok Sabha ticket next year, many aspirants in the BJP have started to re-connect with their voters. On Friday, Shirole has arranged a get together for leaders from all political parties and prominent personalities from various fields . In his invite for the event, the MP said the event has been organised to connect with local residents and unite the society. “There is no time for informal discussion and open discussion… due to the busy daily routine. So, let’s meet on the pretext of a get together and begin the new year with new energy,” reads the invite.
Party leaders admitted that the get together was an evident attempt to connect with the public, as the Lok Sabha election is only a year away. “There is a possibility that the Lok Sabha election may be held before the end of the government’s five-year term. The chief minister has also directed the party cadre to start preparing for the election,” said a BJP leader.
The frequent visits of Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar to Pune has also triggered some concern among local leaders who are aspiring for the party ticket. Javadekar, a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh, hails from Pune and has been active in national politics for a long time. “If the party asks the minister to contest the Lok Sabha election, then he would definitely prefer to contest from Pune, as he is from the city. He has already started connecting with the party cadre in the city and frequently makes his presence felt in Pune,” said a BJP leader.
Pune’s guardian minister Girish Bapat, who is in charge of the state food and civil supplies ministry, is also expected to stake his claim for the BJP ticket in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Bapat had staked his claim for the ticket in 2014 as well. Late Union minister Gopinath Munde had played a crucial role in Shirole emerging the winner in the race for the 2014 BJP Lok Sabha ticket from Pune.
“Next year, the race for the BJP ticket for the Pune Lok Sabha seat is going to be a tough one. Since it came to power at the PMC, the party has also suffered from factionalism in the city unit, so the aspirants will not leave any stone unturned to grab the ticket,” said a party leader. Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Kakade, who has been active in city politics since the PMC election, was recently summoned by state party leaders to ensure that there is no rift in the party’s city unit, as he had spoken up against some party leaders in the civic body.