Every election has a distinct aura about itself and it seemed appropriate to recount the various shades of the elections that have gripped Pune…
Last week when a leading regional daily interviewed me on my most memorable Lok Sabha elections, it occurred to me that every election has its distinct image.
What with the voters’ moods that keep swinging, depending on the political and economic climate of the country at that point of time. If this time round, the intensity of divisiveness of caste and religion seem unprecedented, it also has the crucial elements of first time voters who are tech savvy and independent-minded.
Not to forget, the increasing use of the NOTA (None Of The Above) option as reflected in the recently held State elections.
My most memorable elections were in 1977 when I was studying at Fergusson College and not eligible to vote. The emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1975 had created nationwide distress, though our hostel only woke up to it woke up once elections were declared in March 1977. At that point of time our role was limited to fighting over who would grab the newspaper first to read the headlines!
There were huge walkouts by stalwart Congress leaders to join other political parties and Pune had its share with the popular Congressman Mohan Dharia (a young active parliamentarian) joining the newly formed Bharatiya Lok Dal Party.
For us, the newspaper vendor who squatted on the footpath of the Fergusson College Road, outside Arya Bhushan Press, became our seasonal VIP. He would lay out his newspapers in a manner that we could stand there and read all the headlines…
A news item then stated that Dharia was to give a public speech at Deep Bungalow Chowk, which was close to our hostel. The time was 7.30 pm and six to seven of us reached there on time.
However, Dharia came late and by the time his inspiring speech (to teach Indira Gandhi a lesson) was over it was 9.30 pm and our deadline to return was 9 pm. The Hostel Superintendent fired us and refused to open the gate.
I was so sure that we did the right thing that I just retorted, ‘we had gone for the cause of the nation; are you going to punish us for that?’’ She was otherwise a gentle lady so she gave in!
But, she had some primitive ideas about our generation – once, she told us not to put on the radio as it plays only romantic songs, but that’s another story and how we tackled it!
When the election results were out and Indira Gandhi had suffered a humiliating defeat, we quickly cycled to our favourite newspaper vendor and were shocked to see headlines over the Mastheads of a couple of newspapers, screaming about her defeat which seemed improbable, and incredible!
But that’s the power of the Indian voter who Netas may think they are feeding well with promises and gifts, but yet, the voted remains truly shrewd most often…
Pune’s constituency is a mix bag. While it is largely seen as a saffron bait, the Congress has won seven times and the BJP, thrice. Stalwart Social leaders like S M Joshi and Narayan Gore have also been sent to the Parliament.
While in the 1980s, the Congress kept winning the Pune Lok Sabha seat, during my college time, the Air Force man turned social/political figure called Suresh Kalmadi had begun to create a stir.
I remember us college friends attending a huge live programme of Usha Uthup, organised by Kalmadi. He and his wife Meera, adorning a halter cut, long gown, were at centrestage.
His Poona Coffee House was also getting popular and sometimes we would desert our favourite Vaishali and invariably his topic would come up in discussions.
Steadily, he became larger than life with his proximity to the Gandhi family and was well known for his organizing skills which he displayed through National Games, Pune Festival and so on.
The industrial community of Pune found in him an able representative for any lobbying at the centre and allegations of crippling Pune’s public transport for the sake of the automobile industry never cease in gossip circles even today. So, it was Kalmadi quite the way with he not only crowned as Pune MP, thrice, but played a major role in the arena of sports at the centre, which ironically was also responsible for his downfall.
Yet, his name perhaps holds weight so he was apparently being considered for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but is not keeping too well, we are told.
Then came the Narendra Modi wave and so in 2014 BJP’s Anil Shirole got elected as Pune’s MP with a huge margin. Similarly, Anna Joshi and Pradeep Rawat had previously won but none of them won the hearts of the people.
And that does not confine to the BJP MPs alone. Even Congress stalwart Vitthalrao Gadgil quite forgot his constituency in his march to Delhi.
It is commonly said that once a Pune MP is elected, he does not look back (as he can see only Delhi Darwaza not Pune’s gallis in front of his eyes.) He only thinks of his self-gratification. And that’s why Kalmadi was the man who one may love to hate, but displayed some concern, say some Puneites.
Now, who is going to be elected this time and will the one who is elected, address large issues of public transport, water supply, traffic congestions, solid waste management and pollution all of which is rampant here?
Unfortunately, as of now the crown that we wear of a`Smart City’ is paradoxical. We Puneites don’t want perfume- we want performance!
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,