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Kasba Peth: civic body stalwarts will slug it out in Old Pune

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Redevelopment of crumbling wadas, traffic congestion in the narrow in the narrow, bustling lanes and lack of potable water in several places are among key issues

Sited in the heart of old Pune, the prestigious Kasba Peth Assembly seat a BJP stronghold for three decades, will witness a tussle between two Pune civic body stalwarts — the mayor Mukta Tilak, (BJP-Sena candidate) and Arvind Shinde of the Congress.

The constituency, which comprises a significant part of Peshwa-era Pune with its rickety wadas, was until recently senior BJP leader Girish Bapat’s virtual fiefdom with him winning the seat in consecutive elections since 1995 before vacating it to contest – and win – the Pune Lok Sabha seat in the general elections this year.

The city, with its legendary Ganesha mandals, also forms the heart of Pune’s old trading community with a significant proportion of small traders from the Gujarati and Jain communities.

The Congress has been able to wrest the Kasba Assembly seat only twice from the BJP since 1980 — in 1985 and in the 1991 by-election.

The problem of crumbling old wadas (traditional dwellings) and their long-pending redevelopment, traffic congestion in the narrow, bustling lanes and lack of potable water in several places are among the key issues in this segment.

While the situation has remained unchanged, two fresh candidates from the major contenders have raised hopes that some of the burning civic problems may be redressed.

“The BJP won the Pune Municipal Corporation polls by a thumping majority. Yet, the problems of Kasba Peth, including that of water have not only persisted but have multiplied,” alleged Mr. Shinde, a three-time corporator who was one of the frontrunners for the candidacy of the Pune Lok Sabha constituency.

He faces an extremely tough competitor in Ms. Tilak — a scion of the Bal Gangadhar Tilak family — who is also Mayor of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).

A veteran party hand, Ms. Tilak has a strong base in the Old Pune area, having been the BJP’s leader in the PMC since 2009.

“This constituency which also includes Narayan Peth and Sadashiv Peth has veered towards the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP as it has been the hotbed of Hindu nationalism,” says city-based political analyst Rajendra Pandharpure. He observes that the BJP has always had firm adherents in this part of the city through its network of educational institutes and other think tanks like the Rambhau Mhalgi Prabhodini that propagates the Sangh’s ideology.

“The Brahmin voters here have always sided with the BJP. This is an area whose political clime has been charged with its strongly religious fervour favouring radical Hindutva outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). In contrast, the Congress and the NCP party structures here have remained weak,” says Mr. Pandharpure.

However, he also said that things could change this time around owing to new areas being added after the delimitation of 2008.

Observers say that while the dice may be loaded in Ms. Tilak’s favour, the BJP campaign machinery will be heavily engaged in the Kothrud Assembly seat, where BJP State chief Chandrakant Patil faces a prestige battle.

While the BJP had been winning the past elections owing to a divided opposition, observers point out that this time the saffron alliance faces a possible vote fragmentation due to the intense disaffection prevailing among the Shiv Sena in Pune.

“Moreover, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have come together in the battle for the Kasba segment. This is bound to favour Mr. Shinde,” opined Mr. Pandharpure.

The city’s Sena leaders are disappointed by the fact that their bigger ally has not left even a single seat (out of the eight Assembly seats) for them in the city — the birthplace of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.

Sena leader and former corporator Vishal Dhanawade, has already filed his nomination to contest as an Independent.

“The Sena’s membership has increased drastically since 2009. The BJP’s decision of not letting us contest on even a single seat is unjust. I am confident of support from my followers,” said Mr. Dhanawade.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:02:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/kasba-peth-civic-body-stalwarts-will-slug-it-out-in-old-pune/article29612983.ece

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