city MP Suresh Kalmadi’s arrest and subsequent suspension from the Congress on Monday, suddenly there is a leadership vacuum in the city unit of the Congress. The party would be forced to promote a new leadership, especially in view of the forthcoming election to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
Kalmadi has been dominating local politics for almost two decades. After the then city MP, Vitthalrao Gadgil, was defeated in 1991 Lok Sabha election, Kalmadi took control of the city Congress. He left the Congress in 1998, but returned soon, yet he was successful in regaining control of the party.
Kalmadi successfully led the party in the PMC elections in 1992, 1997 and 2002. Although the party lost power in 2007, Kalmadi maintained control over the city unit of the party. It is for the first time that the party would not have his leadership and somebody from his rival camp may be promoted.
Member of the legislative council (MLC) Ulhas Pawar is the senior-most party leader belonging to the anti-Kalmadi camp. He has support of Union rural development minister and former chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh. But Pawar has preferred to not to dabble in local politics.
The most active local leader from the anti-Kalmadi camp is MLC Mohan Joshi. He was president of the city unit of the Congress for 8 years. When Kalmadi left the Congress in 1998, Joshi preferred to stay on. He contributed to the success of Congress candidate Vitthal Tupe, who defeated Kalmadi as an independent candidate with support of the BJP and Shiv Sena.
In the 1999 Lok Sabha election, Joshi contested as Congress candidate. Although he lost, he was runner up with 2,15,000 votes.
With Kalmadi’s arrest, Joshi has been getting calls from many Congress workers sensing the change in political scenario. But while talking to media persons on Monday, he refused to make any comment on Kalmadi’s arrest. The loyalist group led by Joshi is likely to take over leadership of the city Congress.
Former city president and former minister of state, Balasaheb Shivarkar, is another important leader of the anti-Kalmadi camp. But interestingly, he joined hands with Kalmadi a few days ago in Congress Bhavan for the sake of the party’s unity.
Another Congress leader who does not belong to the Kalmadi camp is MLA Vinayak Nimhan. He is supporter of state industries minister Narayan Rane, with whom he joined the Congress party a few years ago.
Many of the party’s office-bearers and PMC corporators belong to the Kalmadi camp. MLA Ramesh Bagwe is a Kalmadi loyalist. This group expressed support to Kalmadi on Monday, but with their leader being suspended from the party, they would either have to find a new leader to lead them in the party or