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The fall and fall of the Congress Party in PMC
CAMIL PARKHE | Sunday, 5 March 2017 AT 10:38 AM IST
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The Congress Bhavan and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) headquarters located in Shivajinagar are separated only by a small lane. It was only incidental that the Congress ruled the Pune Municipal Corporation during the post-independent period for decades until its splinter group, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), took over the reigns a decade ago.



The two neighbours i.e. The Congress Bhavan and the Pune Municipal Corporation had close ties besides their physical proximity. With the Bharatiya Janata Party storming into the Congress-NCP stronghold, the decades-old rule of the Congress in the civic body has come to an end. In the 162-member House, now, the BJP has 98 members, while the Congress has been pushed back to the third place with just 11 members.

The PMC, established as a municipal council in 1858, was made a municipal corporation in 1950. The post-independent era witnessed consecutive rule of Congress in the PMC, but in later decades, members of Jan Sangh and Shiv Sena were also a part of the civic body.

In 1970s, Nagari Sanghatana, a political front, gained prominence in the PMC and its corporators also occupied the mayoral posts. In the late 1970s, Maharashtra witnessed the first non-Congress government, led by Nagari Sanghatana leaders. After the failure of the Janata Party government experiment, the Nagari Sanghatana corporators joined the Congress. This led to the monopoly of the Congress rule in the civic body for over two decades.

In 1980s and till mid-1990s, the Congress corporators were led by senior party leaders VN Gadgil and Jayantrao Tilak. Gadgil, who was a senior parliamentarian and also a Union minister for a brief spell, was a rival of Congress leader Sharad Pawar.

During those years, Gadgil played a dominant role in the city’s corporation affairs. Kalmadi who was a member of the Rajya Sabha for three terms had no role in the municipal corporation affairs.

Gadgil’s rule in PMC was demolished by Kalmadi soon after he was elected the city’s Lok Sabha member in 1996. He gained control over the affairs in the PMC. After hobnobbing with the BJP and Shiv Sena for a short spell when the Congress denied him ticket for the Lok Sabha seat in 1998, he rejoined the Congress immediately after Sharad Pawar quit the party to form the NCP.

Kalmadi-led Congress lost power in PMC in 2007, when the NCP emerged as the single largest party. Ajit Pawar then took over the reigns of power in PMC and the NCP joined hands with the BJP and Shiv Sena to form the ruling group. This came to be known as the Pune Pattern, implemented with the sole aim of keeping the Kalmadi-led Congress away from power.

After the 2012 elections, however, the NCP shared the power with the Congress. By then, the Kalmadi’s dominance in the city Congress had diminished as Kalmadi, then a local Lok Sabha Member, was in Tihar Jail in connection with the Commonwealth Games scam. In a way, the end of Kalmadi’s political career also meant the end of the decades long Congress rule in the civic body. Since then, the city Congress has not been able to find a political leader of the stature of VN Gadgil, Jayantrao Tilak or even Kalmadi.

Vishwajit Kadam had started taking interest in the affairs of the city, Congress soon projected him as the party’s candidate from Pune Lok Sabha seat. However, his defeat in the 2014 Parliamentary polls put brakes on his ambition to fill in the vacuum in the city Congress caused by Kalmadi’s absence. With the emergence of the BJP as the new ruling group in the PMC, it remains to be seen who will call the shots in the PMC.
 
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