Pune: The city unit of the Congress has become faceless. It is in urgent need of a new leadership, which can revive its fortunes.
The city was once a Congress bastion and the party had full control over the city’s politics, including a full majority in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and a Congress MP in the Union Cabinet.
However, since the ouster of Suresh Kalmadi following alleged involvement in corruption in the Commonwealth Games of 2010, the party’s graph has been on a slide. The party was reduced to nine seats in the last civic elections and Kalmadi’s lieutenants could not save the party from its worst debacle.
Meanwhile, the party launched various unsuccessful leadership experiments such as a collective leadership principle. Youth Congress leader Vishwajeet Kadam was given the reins of the party’s city unit, but failed. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan also looked into the party’s city affairs for a brief period, but he also could not bring the party back to life in Pune.
Abhay Chhajed was the city unit chief for almost a decade. Ramesh Bagwe, a Kalmadi loyalist and former State minister, replaced him. His appointment was aimed to arrest the party’s eroding base among Dalits and Muslims. Yet, the party was reduced to single digits in the municipal corporation elections. Bagwe’s over-enthusiasm in launching a protest against film-maker Madhur Bhandarkar’s film, ‘Indu Sarkar’, alleging that it had a negative portrayal of late PM Indira Gandhi backfired. He later announced that there was nothing objectionable in the film.
Party workers are restive that the Congress needs a new leadership, which can revive the party before the next general elections and unite the party’s rank and file to tide over the Modi tsunami. As a reflection of this view, many banners targeting the BJP have been put up at strategic locations across the city, projecting party MLC Anant Gadgil as an able party leader.
Anant is the son of former Union Cabinet minister Vitthalrao Gadgil, who represented Pune in Delhi for almost three decades.
Party insiders said they need a leader who can take along party workers and who can take to the streets with a better plan to mobilise workers.
“The new leader should support the party and party workers with all his resources, including the money factor,” said a Congress worker.
A city Congress leader, who also led the party’s city unit in the past, said that unless the new leadership takes everyone along, the party will not win back its hold over citizens.