Pune: All national leaders will be touring Maharashtra and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections is being perceived as a watershed in the history of the Nation's democratic exercise. Even though Western Maharashtra is considered to be a bastion for the Congress-NCP alliance, Pune city assumes special importance as the gate-way to this region, as it is regarded as the education and cultural capital of the state.
Pune witness an interesting quadrangular contest for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections for its lone LS seat, where victory will depend on a plethora of factors.
Factors that will woo votes
Some of these factors include the rise of the Aam Adami Party (AAP), a sharp spike in the number of first-time voters, the anti-incumbency factor against Congress as well as MNS which played spoilsport for the BJP-Shiv Sena.
Another deciding factor, although not related directly to the district, is the Narendra Modi wave that has gripped the nation. Political pundits have wasted no time predicting that the big guns will see defeat in this election, since the common man is frustrated with the system, especially with the delivery mechanism across bureaucracy and is looking for a much-needed change.
History to change?
Out of 15 Lok Sabha elections conducted so far, Congress has dominated Pune by winning nine times. The party has also ruled the Pune Municipal Corporation for decades, barring the 2007 elections which say the rise of the "Pune Pattern". This Pune Pattern was an association of Shiv Sena-BJP and the NCP to keep Congress and especially Suresh Kalmadi at bay, during which the PMC saw BJP-Shiv Sena and NCP at the helm for a short span.
Changing political winds
The city of Pune prides on its tradition of progressive thinking and has been hailed as the center of political activity dating to the times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and Peshva Rulers, even in the 1857 era. Post independence and after formation of state of the Maharashtra, Pune has been ruled by Congress for most of the years. In last 30 years, Suresh Kalmadi has been spearheading Congress in the region and has been virtually running the show for the party in Pune.
After Kalmadi's arrest in April 2011, he was suspended from the party with Congress loosing its leadership in the city. That has given Vishwajeet Kadam an opportunity to flex his muscles, as he did not get a ticket from his hometown Sangli. The ticket went to Pratik Patil, sitting MP and Union Minister who belongs to the Late Vasantdada Patil's family. But Kadam will not be overlooked, as his father Patangrao has been in the state Cabinet for over two decades. In it's defence, Congress always enjoyed stong backing from its loyal voters, a number in excess of 50,000, which is more than BJP or any other opposition party. For that reason alone, whenever Congress tasted defeated, it was by the hands of an ex-Congressman, rather than a face from the opposition.
Politcal tussle in Pune
In 1991, Anna Joshi of BJP defeated the Late Vitthalrao Gadgil, and it is an open secret that Sharad Pawar had been instrumental Gadgil's defeat. In 1998, NCP candidate Vitthal Tupe won, with Kalmadi leaving the party to form the Pune Vikas Aghadi. In 1999, the entire election leaned to make Atal Bihari Vajpayee the Prime Minister of the country, since the government had failed on the floor of the House and Pradeep Rawat of BJP defeated Mohan Joshi of Congress. After his return to the party-folds, Kalmadi won the 2004 and 2009 elections despite having no co-operation from the NCP.
Who's in the fray
An increase in young voters can change things in this year's election, since the youth seems to be taking keen interest in elections and voting. It could result in a sharp increasing in voter turn out. Young voters seem to be attracted towards AAP's Arvind Kejariwal, as well as MNS leader Raj Thackeray, Congress' Rahul Gandhi and BJP's Narendra Modi.
To ride the wave, Congress has fielded Maharashtra Pradesh Yuvak Congress president Vishwajeet Kadam, the son of Cabinet Minister Patangrao Kadam and son-in-law of builder-industrialist Avinash Bhosale. BJP has fielded its city unit president Anil Shirole, who has been staunch supporter and friend to Gopinath Munde. AAP has pitted Subhash Ware, who is the former president of the Rashtra Seva Dal and is associated with almost all progressive movements. For MNS it's former two-time MLA Deepak Paygude, who has built a strong network through his Lokseva Bank, Lokseva Kitchen and Lokseva Bazaar.
The number game
Congress has a traditional vote bank of 2.5 to 2.75 lakh votes, while BJP can stake claim to around 2.25 lakh votes. This explains why Pradeep Rawat bagged over three lakh votes on both the occasions winning in 1999, but losing in 2004. Kalmadi received 3.75 and 2.79 lakh votes in 2004 and 2009 respectively, emerging victorious on both occasions. In 2009 the voting percentage was the lowest, with only 37-38 per cent voters turning out to cast their votes. It is estimated that per centage will spike up at this election to over 60 per cent, with the additional three lakh voters added to the list deciding the fate of the game. Even though Congress has an edge with a traditional vote-base, the other factors listed above will decide the fate of the Pune seat.
All candidates are likely to face resistance from within the party as the election approaches. Kadam's future depends on Kalmadi's actions, and much zeal Vinayak Nimhan and other aspirants put in for him. The same applies to Shirole, whose prospects will be decided by how heavily MNS creates a dent in the right-wing votes, if aspirant Girish Bapat chips in for his victory. In the same way, with a a handful MNS Corporators out of his campaigning activities, MNS candidate Deepak Paygude will also have to sweat it out, and Ravindra Dhangekar will play an important role. Similarly, Subhash Ware has his work cut out, since many of stalwarts from the Progressive Movement, including Bhai Vaidya and Baba Adhav have reservations about AAP, but they are likely to pitch in for Ware being colleague in movement.
Pune Lok Sabha election results for last three elections
Suresh Kalmadi (Congress) 2.79 Lakh
Anil Shirole (BJP) 2.54 Lakh
Ranjit Shirole (MNS) 75,000
D S Kulkarni (BSP) 62,000
Pradeep Rawat (BJP) 3.00 Lakh
Suresh Kalmadi (Congress) 3.73 Lakh
Arun Bhatiya 60,000
Pradeep Rawat 3.00 Lakh
Mohan Joshi (Congress) 2.15 Lakh
Vitthal Tupe (NCP) 1.98 Lakh
Total voters in Pune 18,33,686
Total polling stations 7258