With scam-tainted MP Suresh Kalmadi disowned by Congress, the political void caused by his absence in Pune politics which he dictated for over a decade, has left the party workers confused as they approach the upcoming civic elections in the cultural capital of Maharashtra.

Notwithstanding the factional discontent which he generated because of his style of functioning, the suspended Congress MP – three-time Lok Sabha member from Pune -- ruled the civic politics, garnering the support of a majority of Corporators and having a final say in the development profile of this fast expanding city.

As “sabse bada khiladi, Suresh Kalmadi” (popular slogan of his supporters in Pune) remains in Tihar jail, facing charges of alleged corruption in CWG, Kalmadi’s detractors, who could not go beyond a whispering campaign when he was calling the shots, are now finding themselves without direction in the absence of any strong local leader.

The party faces tough electoral battle against formidable NCP and the Shiv Sena—BJP alliance in early next year’s civic polls.

Apparently acknowledging the ground reality that no single person would have the clout enjoyed by Kalmadi to lead the party workers here, a group of prominent Congressmen are now speaking in one voice demanding “collective leadership” to decide on the political strategy for the party.

“If we don’t evolve a collective leadership to strengthen the Congress after the recent development (Kalmadi’s arrest and suspension from party) there is a distinct possibility that other parties would try to engineer an exodus from the party,” cautioned Ulhas Pawar, an MLC considered close to Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.