After dithering for weeks, the Congress’s decision to choose senior leader Mohan Joshi as its Lok Sabha election candidate from Pune late on Monday seems to be a well thought out effort to pacify party cadre, who have felt that the Congress high command was not giving loyal leaders their due respect.
Till Monday night, Pune, one of the most-watched Lok Sabha seats in the state, was the only constituency in Maharashtra where the Congress was yet to declare its candidate. The party finally chose Joshi over the other aspirants, Abhay Chhajed, Arvind Shinde and former Sambhaji Brigade chief Pravin Gaikwad, who had recently joined the party.
Joshi is expected to file his nomination on Wednesday.
Local Congress workers were particularly miffed when new entrants like Gaikwad, and those from other parties, like BJP leader Sanjay Kakade, made it clear that they too has set their sights on the Congress ticket for the Pune Lok Sabha seat. Kakade had even announced his decision to quit his parent party and join the Congress, but finally decided to stay back in the BJP after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, among others, convinced him to do so.
Leaders from the Congress’ Pune unit had approached senior state leaders and expressed their opposition to the ticket being given to an “outsider” like Kakade or Gaikwad. The leaders had pointed out that they had raised similar concerns before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well, when the Congress had decided to give the party ticket to Vishwajeet Kadam, who was from Sangli. Kadam had lost to BJP’s Anil Shirole by a massive margin.
In a letter to the high command, local Congress leaders had said that “outsiders” couldn’t be trusted and fielding one of them would not be in the long-term interest of the party. “The Congress unit wants one of the local leaders to be given the party ticket, and then everyone will accept the party’s decision. There should not be any candidate from outside,” the leaders had said. Click here for more election news
Joshi is not only a former member of the state Legislative Council, he has also headed the city Congress and was part of the state executive committee. “The party cadre are very happy with the candidature of Joshi. They have decided to put in all their efforts to get him elected to the Lok Sabha,” said city Congress spokesperson Ramesh Iyer.
Admitting that the Congress’s city unit was apprehensive about who will be finally fielded from the seat by the party, another Congress leader said, “The party has given the ticket to a loyalist. The cadre was sulking as loyalists and leaders who have remained with the party for years were being ignored… now, the high command has given a message that loyalists will always get justice and be treated fairly by the party.”
Meanwhile, leaders of Congress and NCP held a meeting and addressed party workers at the Congress Bhavan in Pune on Tuesday. At the meeting, NCP leader Ajit Pawar and Congress leader Harshvardhan Patil urged the cadre to work together and get the alliance candidate elected.
Gaikwad, who joined the Congress only days ago with much fanfare, didn’t attend the meeting.