After being defeated in the Graduates’ and Teachers’ constituency Legislative Council elections from Pune Division, the BJP unit in the city has a new issue to contend with. According to sources, the party’s alliance partner RPI(A) has been pressuring it to share power in the last year of its rule in the Pune Municipal Corporation.
The BJP came to power in the PMC for the first time in 2017 by winning 98 of the 162 seats, and has since then focussed on strengthening its base in the city. It currently holds six of the eight Assembly seats in the city, as well as the Pune Lok Sabha seat. The RPI(A) has been its alliance partner for the Lok Sabha, state and civic elections.
When the RPI(A) first staked a claim for a share in power in the PMC, it was given the post of deputy mayor in 2017. However, the two-and-a-half-year terms of both then mayor Mukta Tilak and then deputy mayor Siddarth Dhende ended in 2019, and the BJP subsequently filled both posts with its own corporators, as Murlidhar Mohol became the mayor and Saraswati Shendge the deputy mayor of Pune.
Now, the BJP is going for a change of guard in the civic body to aggressively take on the year-old alliance of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena, which is ruling the state, and which recently defeated BJP candidates in the Graduates’ and Teachers’ constituency elections.
At the same time, the RPI (A) has started raising its demand for a bigger role in running the civic body.
“The BJP had promised RPI(A) that power would be shared in the PMC. It is changing office-bearers in the PMC ahead of civic polls, scheduled to take place over a year later. The RPI(A) has reminded the BJP that our party corporator should be appointed the deputy mayor of the civic body for the remaining period of the five-year term,” senior RPI(A) corporator and former deputy mayor Siddarth Dhende.
He said discussions on this point have been held with RPI(A) president and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, and added that corporator Sunita Wadekar has been “shortlisted” for the post. “The RPI(A) president reminded state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil about the party’s promise of sharing power in the PMC. The state BJP chief has assured us that the demands made by RPI(A) will be considered,” said Dhende.
City BJP chief Jagdish Mulik, however, refused to comment on the issue. “I will get back on this issue later,” he told The Indian Express.
Last week, the city BJP had nominated corporator Ganesh Bidkar as Leader of the House in PMC by replacing Dheeraj Ghate. The BJP move came after it failed to retain the Graduates’ constituency seat of Pune, which was represented by Chandrakant Patil in the last two terms.
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