It will be a three-way fight for the Congress ticket from Pune Lok Sabha seat, even as the party is set to announce its candidate this week. While Mohan Joshi’s name was doing the rounds from the constituency, two more names surfaced Sunday — BJP associate and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Kakade announced that he would be joining the Congress soon, while Pravin Gaikwad, who heads one of the Sambhaji Brigade units, also expressed similar sentiments.
Joshi said all the leaders were present at an event at a city hotel, where Kakade and Gaikwad said they will join the Congress. “The two expressed their willingness to join the Congress and work for the party even if they are denied tickets,” he said.
Congress spokesperson Ramesh Iyer said the central committee of the party will take a final decision this week. “There is going to be a three-way race for the party ticket,” a senior party leader said. When contacted, Gaikwad said he was supposed to join the Congress on March 1, but will now do so in presence of party president Rahul Gandhi. “We need to fight the communal forces and those who are trying to instigate one community against the other. There is a need to establish peace in the country,” he said.
Besides Joshi, Gaikwad and Kakade, a few other leaders were also vying for a Congress ticket from the seat. The state party leadership had recommended the names of Mohan Joshi and Abhay Chhajed, which had reportedly irked senior party leaders, including Balasaheb Shivarkar and Ulhas Pawar. Both Shivarkar and Pawar had also met central party leadership over the issue.
Meanwhile, the BJP continues to maintain silence on the likely candidates from Pune seat. The BJP city unit said the decision will be taken by the central leadership of the party. The party is likely to replace sitting MP Anil Shirole, but is struggling to find a candidate. While the name of District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat has been doing rounds, the minister has refused to confirm or deny if wanted to contest the election.
“I will do what the party wants me to do,” Bapat said.
The BJP had also floated the name of Madhuri Dixit, but the actor has neither confirmed nor denied that was she is a probable candidate.
In 2014 elections, Anil Shirole had defeated Congress’s Vishwajeet Kadam by a record margin of 3.5 lakh votes. The Pune seat has traditionally been a Congress bastion, with Suresh Kalmadi winning from the constituency thrice. Kalmadi, however, has decided to stay out of the fray owing to poor health.
Political analyst said both the Congress and the BJP have been holding back the names of their candidates as part of their strategy. “If one party announces a Maratha candidate, the other party will also do likewise. Same will be done if one party announces a Brahmin candidate,” a Pune-based analyst said.