As the parliamentary board of the Congress’s state unit starts the process of shortlisting candidates for the Lok Sabha election, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s name is among those being considered for the Pune seat, said sources.
The city Congress has also put forward the names of five aspirants — Anant Gadgil, Abhay Chhajed, Balasaheb Shivarkar, Sharad Ranpise and Arvind Shinde — for the seat.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Congress candidate Vishwajeet Kadam had lost the seat to BJP’s Anil Shirole by lakhs of votes. However, even Kadam’s candidature last time had not gone down well with the local unit of the party, which had pointed out the Congress leader, who is from Sangli, was an “outsider”.
The five aspirants for the seat have warned the state unit of the party that it should not repeat the mistake it made in 2014, when it fielded Kadam. “In the assembly election, the BJP won all the eight assembly seats in Pune. It also came to power in te civic bodies with a full majority. Against such odds, it will be difficult for the Congress to win back the Lok Sabha seat with a candidate who is not from the city,” said a Congress leader.
But the final decision on fielding candidates for Lok Sabha seats will be taken by the Congress high command, said one of the aspirants for a ticket. “The state parliamentary board is all set to pass a resolution that will give all the power to select candidates to the party high command…,” he said.
Senior party leaders point out that if Chavan wanted to make a mark in national politics, then contesting from Pune, given its cosmopolitan nature, was the ideal launching pad for him. The former chief minister represents the South Karad assembly seat in Satara district, which is part of the Satara Lok Sabha seat constituency. NCP leader Udayanraje Bhosale is the MP from Satara and the candidate from that seat will also be from NCP, as part of the alliance agreement between the Congress and NCP.
Another Congress leader said Chavan, a Maratha, would be able to attract votes from the community, which had gravitated towards Shirole last time. “Chavan has a clean image… he will be acceptable to voters in Pune, which has educated and professional voters,” he said.
Chavan had earlier said he was not interested in contesting from Pune, and pointed out that Congress and alliance partner NCP were still to decide which party will contest from the city. During his term as the state chief minister, Chavan had not shared a particularly harmonious relationship with state NCP leaders. This could be one of the reasons why the NCP had, for some time, staked its claim for the Pune seat, said sources.
Meanwhile, reports about Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Kakade’s interest in contesting from Pune has raised eyebrows in political circles. He had earlier associated himself with the ruling BJP, but is no longer on good terms with local BJP leaders, leading to speculation that he may seek the candidature from Congress. He has been meeting senior leaders from Congress and NCP, said sources.