The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is increasingly backing non-Marathas for top political jobs.
This follows its losses in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when it played the reservation-for-Marathas card and found Maharashtra Navnirman Sena eating into a huge chunk of its traditional Marathi vote bank.
For the December 1 Pune mayoral poll, NCP has nominated two-time Sikh corporator Mohansingh Rajpal, ignoring Maratha Anil Bhosale, a close associate of Ajit Pawar, who currently controls the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC).
For PCMC, the NCP nominated four-time Punjabi corporator Yogesh Behl. For its deputy mayor, it nominated Sindhi candidate Dabbu Aswani.
NCP sources said the non-Maratha nominations are meant to position the party as being more inclusive than it has ever been. In the 2009 Assembly polls, the NCP lost more ground to MNS in Pune.
The pace at which Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad are turning cosmopolitan explains NCP’s newly inclusive outlook.
Another senior party leader said this shift in stance also has to do with Pawar’s effort to improve his own image, after some non-Maratha MLAs refused to back him for deputy chief minister following the Assembly polls.
Behl’s selection is almost certain, given the NCP’s clear majority in the PCMC. And with the Congress promising support, Rajpal also looks set to become Pune mayor.