Pune: The Pune city Congress hasn't come out of the Kalmadi era and is still struggling to unite to fight the upcoming Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections. Congress city unit chief Ramesh Bagwe has tried hard to fill the gap between the different factions, but with little result.
Recently, a banner was put up at Rani Laxmibai Chowk, close to Congress Bhavan, pointing fingers at Congress party loyalists. Maharashtra State Congress President Ashok Chavan had given the responsibility of Pune to Bagwe, but many leaders are not ready to accept his leadership even after almost two years.
Bagwe recently said, "Congress is going through a bad phase. Now is the time to unite, but some people are dividing the party, which will be harmful for Congress. Some people don't like my leadership. I take meetings every weekend to plan for the upcoming elections, but people are not attending them. Instead, they criticise the party at public forums."
Bagwe is known to be a follower of former MP Suresh Kalmadi. Former city unit chief Abhay Chhajed was also a strong follower of Kalmadi. However, after Kalmadi was mired in corruption in 2011, Chhajed distanced himself from the former. His sophisticated and educated background has helped him.
During the Kalmadi era, there was resistance to his way of functioning. Senior leaders Aanat Gadgil and Mohan Joshi were among them. Vandana Chavan, considered a close associate of Kalmadi, left the Congress to join the NCP.
When senior party leaders visit Pune, all the big names of the party share the dias - but are otherwise never seen together.
There was a time when NCP was ready to form an alliance with the Congress. Now, the Congress wants NCP's help to tackle BJP's strong presence in the city. Now, the Congress is pushing its followers to the loyalist issue. In last Lok Sabha elections, Vishwajeet Kadam was the Congress candidate. Some leaders were not happy with Kadam as he wasn't active in Congress and suddenly the party gave them a chance. Now, aspiring leaders for the Lok Sabha elections are using the loyalist card to create an anti-Vishwajeet Kadam campaign.