Out of fray Kalmadi still casts shadow on Pune contest
Pune: After placating sitting MP Suresh Kalmadi who was sulking over denial of ticket, the Congress managers are confronted with a tough task of retaining the Pune Lok Sabha seat by overcoming the main challenge from a resurgent BJP in a quadrangular contest which is on cards.
Keeping in check dissensions and discontent in the faction-ridden city party unit, where the CWG scam tainted but resourceful Kalmadi still wields considerable influence, had not been an easy task for the Congress strategists.
Kalmadi, who made frantic efforts to get the party ticket for his wife, finally backed out and announced unconditional support to Congress nominee Vishwajeet Kadam.
The contest has become an interesting one with the entry of MNS, AAP in the fray even as BJP, riding high on a perceived "Modi wave", is keeping Congress on tenterhooks in their traditional bastion.
Vishwajeet (33), president of Maharashtra Youth Congress, is the son of senior minister Patangrao Kadam. He faces a formidable opposition from BJP`s city unit chief Anil Shirole who had lost the last election to Kalmadi by a narrow margin.
Congress is also worried about likely division of its traditional vote-share by former MLA and the MNS nominee Deepak Paigude and Subhash ware of the AAP.
Although the BJP rejoiced at the Congress` predicament in salvaging its image for its association with Kalmadi, the saffron party suffered a setback at the beginning of campaign when sitting MLA and ticket aspirant Girish Bapat expressed dissent over Shirole`s candidature.
The ticket row brought into sharp focus the political rivalry between Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari factions within the BJP. While Shirole is considered a supporter of Munde, Bapat is known for his allegiance to the Gadkari camp.
Ironically, it took almost a week for BJP to close its ranks and for Bapat to come out openly in support of Shirole.
When contacted, Shirole said Kalmadi did nothing for the people of city as MP.
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