The cultural capital of the state is in for an interesting quadrangular contest for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
No single party can claim to have an advantage over another as various factors — the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), increased number of first time voters, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena playing the spoilsport for BJP-Shiv Sena and anti-incumbency against Congress — are at play. Many believe that the increased number of young voters will prove to be a decisive factor in the 2014 election as youngsters are taking an increased interest in elections. This could push up the voting percentage. Young voters, however, are being seen attracted to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, MNS leader Raj Thackeray, Congress' Rahul Gandhi and to BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Pune has traditionally voted for the Congress. Of the 15 Lok Sabha election so far, the Congress has won the Pune seat nine times. In addition, the party has also ruled the Pune Municipal Corporation for decades. The only exception was in 2007 election when a "Pune pattern" emerged and the Corporation was ruled by BJP-Shiv Sena and NCP together.
While keeping the scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi out of the fray, the Congress has managed to field a strong candidate. Vishwajeet Kadam is Maharashtra Pradesh Yuvak Congress president, the son of cabinet minister Patangrao Kadam and the son-in-law of builder-industrialist Avinash Bhosale.
Kadam will be up against AAP's Subhash Ware, associated with progressive movements and former president of the Rashtra Seva Dal, and the MNS' former MLA Deepak Paygude, who has a strong network through his Lokseva Bank, Lokseva Kitchen and Lokseva Bazaar.
The BJP has yet to announce its Pune candidate. But speculation is that it will either field city unit president Anil Shirole or four-time MLA Girish Bapat. Shirole is a staunch supporter and friend of senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde while Bapat is a seasoned MLA who enjoys friendship across party lines.
The voting pattern too has swung results in the city. For instance, BJP's Pradeep Rawat got three lakh votes in two elections in 1999 and in 2004, but while he won the seat in 1999, he lost in 2004. Congress' Kalmadi got 3.75 lakh votes in 2004 and 2.79 lakh votes in 2009 but won both the times. However, in 2009, Pune recorded its lowest voting percentage — 37-38 per cent. In 2014, voting percentage is estimated to cross 60 per cent, and the additional weight of three lakh votes will be crucial in deciding the fate of the candidates. That and the floating votes, which will be decided during the campaign and in the last 3-4 days.