Once a bastion of the Congress for decades, Pune changed its political course in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by electing BJP’s Anil Shirole. Since then, the party has consolidated its presence in the city by winning all eight Assembly seats the same year, and later coming to power in Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). In an interview with the Indian Express, Shirole responds to allegations that he hasn’t been “visible” in his constituency in the last five years, and claims that he gave a much-needed boost to many major infrastructure projects for the city.
It has been five years since you were elected from Pune. City politics and BJP’s Pune unit has seen a lot of changes since then. Why should BJP consider you again as its candidate?
I have been active in city politics since 1982. I was a member of PMC for 20 years. I was twice the chief of city BJP. I have risen from the post of a corporator to that of a Lok Sabha MP, and am aware of the city’s issues. I have realised from my experience that to achieve the objectives of developing Pune, it is very useful to be elected to the Lok Sabha. The BJP has twice given me an opportunity to contest for Lok Sabha. I lost in the 2009 elections but won in 2014 because of the confidence shown in me by the voters. I have fulfilled the agenda of development for the city on the lines set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I have been able to make a difference in getting the much-needed push for the international airport, Metro rail, river improvement and other city issues that had been pending for a long time. I have been able to start many projects to address the problems of the city, but I have to undertake more projects for the development of the city.
There are many aspirants in BJP for the ticket for Pune Lok Sabha seat. How do you stand out among them?
I can’t speak about the others. I am a capable person to carry forward the development work of the city. I have been able to start many of the necessary infrastructure projects for the city and would like to see them get completed. It would be possible to do so by representing the city in Lok Sabha again. I wish to contest the election again and get elected to carry forward the development works of the city.
You were elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 with a record margin. But there have been complaints that you were hardly visible in the city, compared to the presence of Guardian Minister Girish Bapat or city Mayor Mukta Tilak.
The member of Lok Sabha is a legislative post. Bapat and Tilak were also elected for the Assembly and civic body, respectively, but they also hold the posts of minister and mayor. It is obvious that they were more visible than me, but that does not mean that I was not here. My visibility has been among the public as I worked towards resolving their issues. My visibility will increase by doing more work for the city.
The Pune Lok Sabha seat has been a bastion of the Congress for a long time. But the party was defeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and after that, it has performed badly in the state and civic body elections. What, according to you, are the Congress’s chances for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
I have my feet firmly on the ground. I don’t believe in underestimating rivals… the opponent should always be taken seriously. I have done lot of work for the city in the last five years. Irrespective of the opposition candidate, I would campaign to seek public support through votes. I have held lot of meetings with the public to discuss development issues in their respective areas. The public network established by me will help me.