After a grueling campaign marked by acrimony and intra-party dissidence, Congress nominee Suresh Kalmadi [ Images ] managed to retain his Lok Sabha seat from Pune with a modest margin of over 25,000 votes.
Kalmadi's election campaign had generated political heat because despite its alliance with the Congress, the National Congress Party workers led by district guardian minister Ajit Pawar, a known detractor of the high profile sitting MP, did not actively canvass for him.
Although Ajit's uncle and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar [ Images ] held election rallies in support of Kalmadi, non-participation of the NCP workers in Kalmadi's campaign remained a topic of animated discussion between the campaign managers of both the parties.
The Kalmadi camp was jittery as the civic body is under the NCP rule as a result of the controversial 'Pune Pattern' worked out by Ajit Pawar, who aligned with the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party to keep Kalmadi-led Congress faction out of power in the Pune Municipal Corporation.
Another factor that worried Kalmadi was the intra-party fissure as his opponents within the Congress carried out a sustained campaign urging the party high command not to re-nominate him this time.
Incidentally, in addition to a couple of aspiring Members of Legislative Assembly, even Maharashtra [ Images ] Congress spokesman Anant Gadgil openly opposed Kalmadi's candidature, saying he could not be listed as a 'loyalist' since he had left the party once.
Kalmadi was locked in a fight against Bharatiya Janata Party's [ Images ] Anil Shirole and was apparently aided by the candidature of Ranjit Shirole of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, who polled a sizeable chunk of votes numbering over 75,000.
In his post-result reaction, Kalmadi said sarcastically, "I am lucky that Ajit Pawar did not find time to campaign for me. Otherwise I would have been defeated like the NCP candidates in Shirur and Maval in Pune district, where he had gone for canvassing".
Kalmadi also demanded Ajit Pawar's resignation saying as the 'guardian minister', he failed to ensure the victory of the NCP-Congress alliance candidates in Pune district.
The NCP suffered humiliating defeats in Shirur and Maval where Shiv Sena [ Images ] candidates emerged victorious. Though Pune is considered its stronghold, the party could win only Baramati, where Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule won. The Pune city seat was left to Congress as part of seat adjustment between the alliance partners.