Updated: February 7, 2021 5:11:32 am
Even as the Congress high command has appointed an “aggressive” leader like Nana Patole as the state unit chief to revive the dwindling fortunes of the weakened party, the Congress rank and file in Pune are also expecting that party units in the district, city and Pimpri-Chinchwad will be overhauled ahead of the crucial civic and cantonment elections.
The Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporation elections are due early next year while the elections to Pune, Khadki and Dehu Road cantonment boards are long overdue and are expected to be held soon.
Congress leaders believe that the party can’t perform well in the coming elections if it is not overhauled with strong leaders at the helm. Whether it is in Pune district, Pune city or Pimpri-Chinchwad, leaders say, Congress’ performance has been faltering in terms of winning civic body, cantonment or gram panchayat elections.
In Pune city, especially, after the exit of Suresh Kalmadi from the political terrain, the party has been struggling to find a leader to match his credentials. As a result, in the last two Lok Sabha elections, Congress candidates proved no match for BJP candidates from the Pune seat. Both Congress candidates lost by huge margin of votes in Pune, which came as a major embarrassment for the party.
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Of the four Lok Sabha seats in Pune district, Congress gets to contest only the one seat of Pune city, which too it has been losing, while its alliance partner NCP has won one and two seats, respectively, in the last two parliamentary polls.
Even in the state assembly elections, the Congress has not been able to win a single seat from Pune city in either the 2015 or 2019 election. Of the 21 assembly seats in Pune district, Congress has only two seats while the rest are shared by NCP and BJP.
In the Pune Municipal Corporation, the Congress’ presence has been shrinking. After the 2012 civic elections, it had 28 corporators in the civic body while in the 2017 civic polls, only nine of its corporators got elected.
Similarly, in Pimpri-Chinchwad, where it had once ruled the civic body for 20 years, the Congress’ fortunes have changed. In the 2017 civic elections, not a single Congress corporator could get elected. For the past three months, the Pimpri-Chinchwad unit of the Congress does not even have a president after the incumbent resigned.
In rural areas of Pune too, the Congress stands at the number 4 position, with NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena walking away with most of the seats in the recent gram panchayat elections.
Mohan Joshi, a senior leader from Pune who has been appointed one of the Congress vice-presidents in the state, said, “The revival of Congress across the state will gain momentum with the announcement of the new team. Pune will be no exception. We will go full throttle in the civic elections in both PMC and PCMC areas.”
Another Congress leader, Gopal Tiwarie, said, “The morale of the Congress rank and file in both city as well as rural areas is down. Our presence in PMC has reduced drastically and in Pimpri-Chinchwad, we are non-existent. The latest appointments and some more to follow will certainly lift the mood in the party. The party is looking to make its presence felt, like it did for many years across Pune. We are looking at Nana Patole to strengthen the party right from the grassroot level.”
City Congress spokesperson Ramesh Iyer said, “Nana Patole is an aggressive leader. He took on the BJP in Nagpur and proved his mettle during the recent Legislative Council elections. He also handled the speaker’s post admirably. We are all expecting that he will rejuvenate the party and make it a strong unit in Pune.”
Narendra Bansode, president of Pimpri-Chinchwad Youth Congress, said, “We are confident Nana Patole will do a good job at the helm and help in making the party a strong force, like it once was. In Pimpri-Chinchwad, we are looking for major steps to overhaul the party to face the coming elections.”
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