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State Congress dumps Kalmadi, supporters go into hiding

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

Suresh Kalmadi, who was until recently the fund-raiser for the Pune city Congress unit and deal maker for the state unit, has been dumped by both. The All India Congress Party has already washed its hands of Kalmadi.

The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) raids at Kalmadi’s Delhi, Pune and Mumbai houses for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore Commonwealth Games (CWG) scam,has brought a visible change even among his supporters in Pune, who have gone into a hiding. Though it has brought in embarrassment for Congress, none in the ruling party is ready to accept the reality on record.

A section of the party sees the end of Kalmadi’s electoral politics. They recalled that party president Sonia Gandhi had already removed Kalmadi from the post of secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party.

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Manikrao Thakre told Business Standard: “Let Kalmadi face the CBI probe and come out clean. The state unit has nothing to offer further.”

When asked whether Kalmadi’s alleged involvement in CWG scam would have adverse impact on the Pune city Congress unit and the state unit,Thakre replied in negative. “On the contrary, the party is quite capable of continuing its march.”

However, Anant Gadgil, a bete noire of Kalmadi, has a different view of the present crisis. “I was since beginning quite critical of Kalmadi’s style of functioning and repeatedly warned about its repercussions on the party’s functioning. However, I was a lone voice in the party,” said Gadgil, son of former Union minister late Vitthalrao Gadgil.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena have already said the CBI raids came quite late.

Kalmadi could not be reached, as his mobile was switched off and his staff refused to connect him on land lines.

For Kalmadi, it has until recently been a long but memorable journey in Pune’s politics. A self-declared chief executive of the city, which has emerged as one of the leading cyber cities on the global map, he had a distinguished career for over a decade in the air force before joining active politics in 1977, when he was appointed as the Pune Youth Congress chief. In 1978, he became the state youth Congress chief and contested the assembly elections, but lost.

Kalmadi later joined Sharad Pawar’s Congress (S). He rejoined the Congress after Pawar merged his party with the Congress in 1986. He got elected to the Rajya Sabha for the first time in 1982 and later got re-elected in 1988 to the upper house. He made it for the third consecutive term in 1994 and became minister of state for railways in the Narasimha Rao-led government.

In the 1996 elections, Kalmadi failed to get the Congress ticket and thus formed the Pune Vikas Aghadi and the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi. He succeeded in getting support from the Shiv Sena-BJP to contest the general elections as an independent. But he was defeated by Congress candidate and Pawar supporter Vitthal Tupe.

Kalmadi once again got elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1998 and did not contest the 1999 general elections. When Pawar was suspended from the Congress or raking up Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue, Kalmadi ditched his mentor and remained with the Congress. He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004 and 2009.

Kalmadi continues to keep his hold in Pune’s social circle, as he is instrumental in organising the annual Pune festival, which he started in 1989, when he was the chairman of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation. Besides, the Pune International Marathon is Kalmadi’s brainchild.

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First Published: Sun, December 26 2010. 00:29 IST