11 Nov 2011
BJP Prez, Nitin Gadkari, to Contest in 2014 from Pune
Kashmir Telegraph News Service

Pune, 11 Nov, 2011: BJP National President, Nitin Gadkari, it has been learnt from very reliable sources, within the party, is keen to actively explore the possibility, of contesting 2014 elections, from the Pune Parliamentary Constituency. 

Gadkari spent a full day in town yesterday, and had a series of back-to-back engagements. While his engagements were also seen by many, as part of the efforts, to sustain the momentum of party – from the recent assembly by-poll win to the civic polls, which are due in a few months; sources close to the BJP President, have told KashmirTelegraph.com that some homework, indeed, was also done to firm up candidature for Lok-Sabha seat from Pune. 

File Photo - Courtesy, The Hindu
A senior, city based leader of BJP, on the condition of anonymity, told KashmirTelegraph.com that it makes excellent sense for the BJP President to contest the Lok-Sabha polls from Pune. The leader further went on to say that he would not be surprised, if this is formally announced, at an appropriate time, by the senior party leadership.

While this important development could not be formally confirmed, at this point in time, reliable sources have told KashmirTelegraph.com that Congress and NCP have major reasons to worry, over this important development, which has taken everyone by surprise. 

Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar, who with Kalmadi out of the picture, it is reliably learnt, is keen to field an NCP candidate from Pune. 

Notwithstanding the fact that Pune has been typically perceived as a Congress-NCP strong-hold, Suresh Kalmadi / CWG corruption scandal is expected to have a huge anti-incumbency factor, and with Gadkari’s strong candidature, political pundits believe, it is indeed a very good move by BJP – to be third time lucky. 

In 1991, Anna Joshi won the prestigious Pune seat, the first time for BJP, while in 1999, Pradeep Rawat defeated Mohan Joshi of the Congress to bag the seat, with a massive majority of over 90,000 votes. 

Subsequently, both in 2004 and 2009, Suresh Kalmadi, supported by NCP won the elections. While in 2004, with a 48.61 percentage vote share, Congress did very well, the drop in the percentage vote share of both the Congress (38.12) and BJP (34.62) in 2009 surprised a lot of political pundits. Ranjeet Shirole of the MNS surprised many by bagging 75,930 votes with a percentage vote share of 10.33. 

Out of six assembly segements - Vadgaonsheri, Shivajinagar, Kothrud, Parvati, Pune Cantonment, and Kasba Peth – which make up the Pune Parliamentary constituency, BJP’s traditional strong hold is Kasba Peth; along with Parvati, which has Madhuri Misal of BJP, as a sitting MLA, while Kothrud seat is with Chandrakant Mokate of the Shiv Sena. Both Madhuri and Mokate had won these assembly segments, with good margins. 

Though Vikas Matkari, Pune City BJP President, lost the Shivajinagar constituency, BJP has a good traditional support base in this constituency. The electoral alliance, which Shiv Sena has with Republican Party of India (RPI) is expected to help BJP in the other two assembly segments, Vadgaonsheri and Pune Cantonment, which has currently, Bapusaheb Pathore (NCP) and Ramesh Bagwe (Congress), as sittings MLA’s.

General Election, 2009
Party
Candidate
Votes
%
±%
Congress
Suresh Kalmadi
2,79,973
38.12
BJP
Anil Shirole
2,54,272
34.62
MNS
Ranjeet Shirole
75,930
10.33
BSP
D. S. Kulkarni
62,981
8.57
Majority
25,701
Turnout
7,34,370
Congress Hold
Swing

MNS is expected to continue to be a factor in the upcoming elections however, it is reliably learnt that Raj Thackeray is expected not to field a candidate, once BJP President, Nitin Gadkari’s, candidature from Pune is formally announced from the party leadership. 

While Pune Shiv Sena leaders, Mahadev Babar, Chandrakant Mokate and Sham Deshpande did not attend the function at Kamala Nehru Hospital, yesterday, political observers don’t ascribe much importance to their absence.

General Election, 2004
Party
Candidate
Votes
%
±%
Congress
Suresh Kalmadi
3,73,704
48.61
+5.44
BJP
Pradeep Rawat
3,00,507
40.67
Indep
Arun Bhatia
60,213
7.83
Majority
79,197
4.31
Turnout
7,68,827
43.57
+4.13
Congress Gain from BJP
Swing
+5.44

On the other hand, notwithstanding the fact that Shiv Sena has been for many years wanting to field a candidate from Pune; for 2014, they’re expected to strongly support the candidature of BJP National President, Nitin Gadkari for the 2014 general elections from Pune. 

The clout of Nitin Gadkari was visible at the hospital function yesterday, when all major city BJP leaders – Ganesh Bidkar, Girish Bapat, Madhuri Misal, Vikas Matkari, Anil Shirole, Srinath Bhimale, Mukta Tilak, and Sandeep Khardekar – made sure, they all were present for the function.

General Election, 1999
Party
Candidate
Votes
%
±%
BJP
Pradeep Rawat
3,04,955
41.62
Congress
Mohan Joshi
2,13,670
29.16
NCP
Vitthal Tupe
1,98,738
27.13
Majority
91,285
Turnout
7,32,654
BJP Gain from Congress
Swing

The victory of Bhimrao Tapkir in the by-polls has helped BJP party leadership in the city to collaborate and work collectively for the upcoming civic poll elections. 

Gadkari played a key role in building the Pune-Mumbai Expressway during his stint as Cabinet Minister for Public works Department, Government of Maharashtra between 1995 and 1999. His resoluteness in swiftly completing mega projects like the Mumbai-Pune Expressway continues to have a deep emotive connect with the people of Pune. 

People of Maharashtra, in general, and Pune, in particular, remember Gadkari, for his high level of result orientation and performance, which marked his ministerial inning. A Swayamsevak of the RSS to the core, Gadkari, has a very strong support base in the city, to plunge into electoral politics from Pune City, remarked a senior political commentator. 

Contesting 2014 elections from Pune, and not an obvious choice, like say Nagpur, would indeed, send the right message to the people and more importantly to his political opponents.

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