Ravindra Dhangekar Vs Murlidhar Mohol: Who Will Win Pune Lok Sabah Seat?

Ravindra Dhangekar Vs Murlidhar Mohol: Who Will Win Pune Lok Sabah Seat?

The Congress has fielded the OBC leader Dhangekar for the prestigious Pune Lok Sabha seat to grapple with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Murlidhar Mohol, its Maratha face and an ex-Mayor, in place of the late Brahmin heavyweight Girish Bapat, who died as the sitting MP in March 2023.

IANSUpdated: Saturday, May 11, 2024, 04:24 PM IST
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Ravindra Dhangekar Vs Murlidhar Mohol: Who Will Win Pune Lok Sabah Seat? |

Thrilled after the knockout victory of the Congress candidate Ravindra Dhangekar in the Kasba Peth Assembly by-elections 15 months ago, the party has attempted to cash in on the goodwill even for the 2024 parliament polls.

The Congress has fielded the OBC leader Dhangekar for the prestigious Pune Lok Sabha seat to grapple with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Murlidhar Mohol, its Maratha face and an ex-Mayor, in place of the late Brahmin heavyweight Girish Bapat, who died as the sitting MP in March 2023.

Besides Congress' Dhangekar and BJP's Mohol, the third corner is occupied by Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA)'s Vasant More, who quit Raj Thackeray-headed Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in March (2024) after being denied a party ticket.

Pune was once a Brahmin bastion

Dhangekar's victory in the Kasba Peth Assembly by-polls, a BJP Brahmin bastion was impressive in many ways. The by-polls were necessitated by the death of sitting MLA Mukta Tilak - a great-granddaughter-in-law of the freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

The BJP did not field any member of the Tilak family or even a Brahmin but nominated a Maratha Hemant Rasane who lost to Dhangekar in the BJP's bastion. Later, local leaders attributed the BJP's loss to factors like not fielding a Brahmin and not giving a ticket to a Tilak family member to garner sympathy votes.

Rattled by Dhangekar's surprise sweep, the worried BJP did not favour the Lok Sabha bypoll after Bapat's demise and the seat remained vacant for nearly 15 months.

Constituency at glance

Since 1952, a Congress fortress 10 times, the Pune Lok Sabha seat had deserted the party on at least 7 occasions, aligning with some prevalent political 'wave' or a prominent candidate.

The city has sent four union ministers from here - NV Gadgil, Mohan Dharia, VN Gadgil, Suresh Kalmadi, besides a High Commissioner to the UK, NG Goray.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP's Anil Shirole won the seat from the two-time Congress MP Kalmadi who came under a cloud of corruption, and in 2019, Bapat defeated Congress rival Mohan Joshi.

Who will win?

Despite any perceptible 'wave' in 2024, Mohol is gung-ho about a BJP hat-trick in the Pune Lok Sabha, but Dhangekar and More also display supreme confidence in winning the parliamentary seat, given the changing caste dynamics in the city. Mohol is banking on the performance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the respect for the late Bapat and the development works that have been implemented in the region. Countering, the Congress and VBA questioned the false promises of the BJP, the divisions sought to be created on caste-communal lines, the failure to control the myriad local problems of Punekars, plus the PM's reference to a 'bhatakti-atma' in his poll campaign here.

Hoping to woo the electorate, all major political leaders have vigorously campaigned here including BJP's Modi and Nitin Gadkari, Congress' Rahul Gandhi and Nana Patole, Shiv Sena (UBT)'s Uddhav Thackeray, Aditya Thackeray and Sushma Andhare, and NCP (SP)'s Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule. However, this time both the Congress and BJP are wary of More's entry as in 2019, the VBA in partnership with the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) had cut out a chunk of Congress votes.

But in 2024, both VBA and AIMIM are going solo and the latter has put up a nominee Anis A. Sundake. Renowned as the cultural, academic and IT capital of the state, Pune LS comprises six assembly seats of which four are held by BJP, one by ruling ally NCP and one by Congress. They are BJP's Pune Cantonment-SC (MLA Sunil Kamble), Parvati (MLA Madhuri Misal), Kothrud (MLA Chandrakant Patil) and Shivajinagar (MLA Siddharth Shirole); NCP's Vadgaon-Sheri (MLA Sunil Tingre), and Congress' Kasba Peth (MLA Ravindra Dhangekar). Incidentally, all three main rivals - Dhangekar, Mohol and More - are veterans of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), one of the biggest corporations in the country, and have their fingers on the public pulse.

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