Written by Megha Roy
While the rest of Sopanbaug was still savouring the Sunday morning, ‘Dada’, as Congress’s Pune Lok Sabha seat candidate Mohan Joshi is popularly referred to, was ready to greet journalists at his residence at 8 am. Finishing several cups of tea while talking to visitors, journalists and party workers at his apartment, the Congress leader sets out for a hectic day of campaigning.
Two Toyota Innovas, grey in colour, stand ready outside his apartment’s lobby. Joshi gets into the first car — plastered with party posters, a small cutout of the leader and flags of the Congress and ally NCP. Its registration
number ends with 3, which is Joshi’s lucky number.
At 10.55 am, the cavalcade pulls the first stop of the last day of campaigning at Gupte Mangal Karyalaya, opposite Kesari Wada. This is in Ward No 15, Kasba Peth — one of BJP’s traditional bastions. Joshi, accompanied by a few party workers and a team of the city Congress’s social media wing, met a few local residents. Joshi, however, speaks little, allowing party leader Gopal Tiwari to take over and highlight the party’s work and support from the NCP and MNS.
“I have been a worker, never a leader. I recognise the efforts of all the workers. And if the RSS spread rumours, do not get agitated. Contact me,” Joshi says.
Someone in the sparse crowd raises a slogan: “Punyachi khushi, Mohan Joshi (Pune’s happiness… Mohan Joshi)”.
At 11.15 am, Joshi reaches Congress Bhavan. After briefly pouring over the outline of his press meet, he is ready to address the gathering: “Every section of the society has extended their support to me. On a morning walk, two elderly men stopped me and said they were BJP supporters in Advani’s and Murli Manohar Joshi’s time, but they would vote for me this time. I was in my car when a PMPML driver pointed at me and told all the commuters in the bus: ‘He is going to be elected’. A few young girls stopped me on the road another day and said they were going to vote for the first time, and took a selfie with me.”
One of the party workers later says, Joshi’s body language and confidence showed that he was sure of victory. After the meet, Joshi, accompanied by NCP leader Vandana Chavan, headed to Budhwar Chowk to express solidarity with a movement organised by Baba Adhav’s Rashtriya Ekatmata Samiti to protest against comments “sullying” the memory of martyrs.
Joshi then walks a few metres on the packed Dagdusheth Ganpati road to pay a visit to the famous temple around 1 pm. In between, he touches the feet of an elderly woman, meets some locals and stops a couple of times to oblige supporters for selfies.
At 1.20 pm, he is back at Congress Bhavan to hold a private meeting with senior leaders. Post lunch, Joshi gears up for the last leg of his campaign — a rally scheduled at Mandai area. Reaching the venue almost 30 minutes behind schedule, Joshi is greeted by excited slogans: “Sab ki khushi… Mohan Joshi”.
After Congress leader Pravin Gaikwad, NCP leader Chetan Tupe and Vandana Chavan, Joshi takes over the mic to address the crowd at 4.55 pm. “There are three former chief ministers on the dias today. They are very lucky for me. The date on which I had filed my nomination papers was a (April) third. My number on the candidate list is three. And three is my lucky number,” Joshi says, to loud cheering.
After the addresses of former state CMs Prithviraj Chavan and Sushil Kumar Shinde — the rally concluded minutes before the 6 pm-deadline — Dada climbed back to his Innova car, now stripped of its Congress posters and flags. After 17 days of relentless campaigning, he seemed to be looking forward to a little rest.