Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, rift within BJP fold, Congress senses opportunity in Punehttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/ahead-of-lok-sabha-elections-rift-within-bjp-fold-congress-senses-opportunity-in-pune-5547687/

Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, rift within BJP fold, Congress senses opportunity in Pune

HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, whose name has been doing the rounds for the Pune seat, denied that he will be contesting.

Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, rift within BJP fold, Congress senses opportunity in Pune
Union Minister, Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar

At a time when there is confusion over whether the Lok Sabha pre-poll alliance with Shiv Sena will take place or not, the BJP in Pune city is now finding itself in disarray with some key leaders pointing fingers at each other. On the other hand, the city Congress, which was defeated by the BJP in the 2014 elections, claimed that the rift in the BJP will help the Congress regain its hold.

The rank and file of the BJP, whose candidate Anil Shirole had won the Pune Lok Sabha seat by an unprecedented margin in 2014, has been agitated after one of the leaders, Sanjay Kakade, made what the party said were “objectionable remarks” about the possibility of party’s state chief Raosaheb Danve winning. Two days ago, Kakade had said: “If the BJP-Shiv Sena pre-poll alliance does not take place in the state, then Danve will lose his seat by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes.”

The BJP in the city held a protest against the remarks.  It is said to be a first-of-its kind protest organised by any political party against its top leader.  Even when Suresh Kalmadi was facing charges of corruption and was subsequently suspended from the party, the Congress leaders did not agitate against him, political observers said.

Saturday’s protest was led by BJP city president Yogesh Gogawale. Shirole, all eight MLAs of the party and as many as 96 corporators took part in the protest and raised slogans against Kakade. When contacted on Sunday, Gogawale said such statements cause damage to party’s image and affect the morale of the cadre. “It was an irresponsible statement..,” he said.

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Asked whether such remarks will affect the party’s chances in the Lok Sabha elections, Gogawale said such remarks were certainly not in the interest of the party. Asked whether he has spoken to Kakade about the issue, Gogawale replied in negative and said the party leadership will take appropriate action. Despite repeated attempts, Kakade remained unavailable for comments.

At a press conference on Sunday, Union Minister, Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar, whose name has been doing the rounds for the Pune seat, denied that he will be contesting. “I will extend my full support to the party candidate contesting from Pune,” he said.

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Bogged down, BJP cadre awaits final word

The BJP campaign in Pune city has remained a non-starter, as there is no final word yet on the possibility of a tie-up with the Shiv Sena. With several names doing the rounds and leaders speaking in different voices, the party rank and file finds itself going through a low phase. Most party workers feel that the party will lose crucial time and the discomfort will grow if it does not get its act right by clearing the air over the Pune candidature for the Lok Sabha polls.

He refused to comment on Kakade’s statement. “The city BJP president has spoken about it…I will not speak,” he said. When told that Kakade’s predictions had proved right during the civic elections, Javadekar said (in Marathi): “Tu ekda matka lagla (For once, he won the lottery).

BJP leaders said Javadekar had taken note of Kakade’s statement. “Javadekar will take up the issue with the party president,” a BJP leader said, adding, they were expecting strong action against Kakade who had said BJP will not get majority in the 2019 elections earlier as well.

Meanwhile, the city Congress said the drama being played out in BJP will help the party in the elections. “BJP’s infight will definitely help the Congress. They will not be able to project themselves as a united force. In contrast to the BJP, Congress is a united party and will face the electorate with confidence. Our leaders have agreed that whoever gets the ticket, others will extend full support to the candidate. This reflects the party’s unity,” said Congress spokesperson Ramesh Iyer. Although the NCP and the Congress have not yet finalised who will contest from Pune seat, the Congress said its campaign has taken off. “We are confident of contesting the Pune seat and therefore have started our campaign,” said Iyer.

Highlighting BJP’s differences within, a Congress leader said: “The BJP is in confusion. It is not able to decide who should contest from Pune seat. First it floated the name of Madhuri Dixit, then Prakash Javadekar’s name has been doing rounds for sometime. Anil Shirole has been seeking re-election, Kakade has been making noises and Bapat, too, …the BJP house is in real disorder.”

Javadekar evasive about city’s issues

Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday avoided expressing his views on issues affecting Pune city. Asked about the water emergency scenario in Pune, Javadekar refused to comment. Regarding the helmet controversy, he said: “In most cities of the country, helmets are mandatory.”