The Bombay High Court recently instructed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to immediately conduct a bypoll for the Pune Lok Sabha constituency, vacant since the demise of sitting MP Girish Bapat on March 29. Subsequently, the ECI challenged the Bombay HC's decision in the Supreme Court, but the petition from the ECI is pending numbering. However, given the imminent Lok Sabha elections in a few months, the likelihood of conducting the bypoll seems uncertain.
The previous two Pune MPs, Anil Shirole and Girish Bapat, both belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and secured victories by a significant margin. However, this time, numerous contenders have emerged from the saffron party. Speculations surfaced about Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis intending to contest from Pune. Dismissing these rumours, Fadnavis clarified, "While I hold Pune in high regard, I won't be contesting from this seat." So, who might step into the contest? Presently, four potential candidates have emerged.
1. Murlidhar Mohol
Former Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol stands out as a top contender and holds the position of BJP's election in-charge for the Pune Lok Sabha seat. Lately, he has been actively fostering community ties by arranging diverse cultural and sports events. This includes organising events like the ‘Maharashtra Kesari’ and a large-scale blood donation drive, among others, throughout the year. Mohol's proximity to Fadnavis and Maharashtra BJP Chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule has to be noted.
2. Jagdish Mulik
Former BJP Pune unit chief and former Vadgaon Sheri MLA Jagdish Mulik has emerged as another strong contender in the race. Following Bapat's passing, Mulik had publicly expressed his aspirations to contest the seat. He has actively organised various city events, notably Punethon 2023, inaugurated by Maharashtra Minister Chandrakant Patil, alongside 'Hanuman Katha' and 'Divya Darbar' of Bageshwar Baba, graced by the presence of Fadnavis. Mulik has a history of serving in different roles within the saffron party's student front and the youth wing. He has also held the position of general secretary in the city BJP in 2013.
3. Sunil Deodhar
The notable contender in the fray is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary Sunil Deodhar. His proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is evident from his significant role in the Gujarat elections previously. Deodhar notably served as the BJP campaign in-charge for the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency during Modi's candidacy in 2014 and played a crucial role in the party's victory in Tripura in 2018. Until recently, he held the position of BJP's national secretary and co-in-charge of Andhra Pradesh. Expressing his aspirations, Deodhar recently affirmed his interest in contesting the Pune Lok Sabha seat, emphasising his Puneite roots. "I am keen to contest the Pune Lok Sabha seat and have already commenced engaging with the public through various programmes," he affirmed.
4. Sanjay Kakade
Former Rajya Sabha MP and real estate developer Sanjay Kakade has voiced his interest in contesting the Pune Lok Sabha seat. "I have a strong connection with the party cadre at the grassroots level and am ready to contest the election if given a ticket by the party," he recently stated. In the 2019 elections, Kakade had shown interest in contesting but did not get the ticket. Reports suggested he might join the Congress due to this, but assurances of a more significant role within the saffron party changed his course.