Published on Apr 07, 2004 01:42 PM IST

Known as the "Oxford of the East", Pune Lok Sabha constituency will witness a straight fight between Congress' Suresh Kalmadi and BJP's Pradeep Rawat in the April 26 Parliamentary polls.

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HT Image
PTI | ByPress Trust of India, Pune

Known as the "Oxford of the East", Pune Lok Sabha constituency will witness a straight fight between Congress' Suresh Kalmadi and BJP's Pradeep Rawat in the April 26 Parliamentary polls.

Considered to be a Congress bastion, this constituency has elected the party's nominees for eight times.

The electorate of Pune had elected Vithalrao Gadgil for three consecutive times in 1980, 1984 and 1989. BJP won from here for the first time in 1991 and in the last General Election.

In the 1999 elections, Rawat had secured 3.04 lakh votes as against 2.13 lakh votes by Congress candidate Mohan Joshi and 1.98 lakh votes by NCP's Vithal Tupe.

The defeat of the Congress candidate in the last election is mainly attributed to the division of the secular votes which benefitted BJP.

In view of Congress and NCP forging an alliance this time, the BJP will have to secure over one lakh votes if it is to maintain the winning streak.

This definitely is going to be an uphill task for the BJP considering the fact that there is not going to be a split in the secular votes to favour the BJP candidate in this constituency which predominantly is a Congress bastion, political observers say.

Besides, the presence of Arun Bhatia, who is contesting as an independent might get a chunk of votes of higher middle class and upper class votes and of those who are disenchanted with the system.

Bhatia, therefore, could eat into the votes of both the Congress as well as the BJP and more particularly that of the latter.

Recently the former Janata Dal President Sambhaji Kakade had announced his decision to contest the election as an independent candidate. This had given considerable sleepless night to Kalmadi as Kakade could eat into the secular votes and thereby pose problems for him.

Kakade, a veteran Maratha leader had contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1977 in Baramati constituency on Janta Dal and had won the seat. In 1991, he contested from Pune seat and polled 72,000 votes.

However, now Kakade has decided not to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Pune. Thus his presence or absence will have its effect on the prospects of the Congress candidate. 

The strength of Kalmadi, a retired Indian Air Force pilot, is his resources and organisational skill. He has risen from a local youth Congress leader to the treasurer of the Congress Parliamentary committee. Active in sports, Kalmadi is also the chairman of the Indian Olympic Association.

His weakness according to political observers is he lacks mass appeal. He made a backdoor entry to Parliament on a Rajya Sabha ticket. Thrice in the past Kalmadi faced the electorate but could win only once -- in the 1996 Lok Sabha election on a Congress ticket.

Kalmadi says if elected he would make Pune one of the finest city in the country with better infrastructure such as roads, water supply, industries, slum improvement and international airport.

BJP candidate Pradeep Rawat fondly known as 'Dada' (elder brother) is a voracious reader and is popular with RSS. He, has however, been always maintaining a low profile.

Rawat has been urging the voters to vote for him as it will tantamount to vote for Atal Behari Vajpayee to provide stable government, all round development and good governance and Pune's development.

The Pune Lok Sabha constituency comprises six assembly segments including Shivajinagar, Bopodi, Parvati, Kasba, Bhavani and Cantonment.

The total electorate in this constituency is 15,69,507 comprising 8,17,049 males and 7,51,479 female voters.

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