Pune: ‘Nationalistic issues have their place but for Assembly polls, local issues matter’

In the Maharashtra Assembly election, NCP candidates won two of the eight seats in Pune city. Chetan Tupe, the newly elected MLA from Hadapsar, was one of the two MLAs, while Sunil Tingre from Vadgaon Sheri was the other.

In the Maharashtra Assembly election, NCP candidates won two of the eight seats in Pune city. Chetan Tupe, the newly elected MLA from Hadapsar, was one of the two MLAs, while Sunil Tingre from Vadgaon Sheri was the other. Tupe, an old hand in Pune’s politics, has been a corporator from the Hadapasar area and has been the chairman of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC)’s City Improvement Committee. Tupe shared his plans for the party and how the NCP wishes to regain its control over the PMC. Excerpts from a conversation:

How do you analyse the election results? Has the NCP managed to break into urban vote banks?

I do not feel there are any urban or rural voters. A voter is a voter, they might not express themselves openly, but they observe. In case of Pune, the results are there for everyone to see. The BJP, which had eight MLAs in the last house, is now reduced to six with NCP winning two seats. Three of the seats were won by the BJP with a wafer thin majority. In the neighbouring Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), NCP won one seat which was held by Shiv Sena in the last election.

If you ask me, the results are interesting. In 2014, the BJP sailed through and their winning spree continued for the assembly election. Moreover, the BJP managed to win the PMC election in 2017, unseating the Congress. As an opposition party, we decided to play our part well. We took on the BJP and exposed their corruption, both in the house as well as outside the house. Be it the Rs 1,100-crore scam of 24×7 water supply, the increased cost of Smart City project, the Rs 200-crore unnecessary loans, the Rs 165-crore scam in Katraj-Kondhwa Road project, the corruption in removal of water hyacinth etc. We took on the BJP with our studied and strong opposition.

When I became the NCP’s city president, I said workers are empowered and reach out to the voters. The results are a reflection of this hard work

You said there is no urban and rural voter, but that seems to be contradictory to the impression that NCP and Congress have become mainly rural parties, while the BJP has a strong presence in urban areas. So what has changed in 2019?

I will again insist that there is rural or urban voter. A voter remains silent and observes who is working. In our case, as an opposition party, we were vocal about people’s issues. People realised that we were taking up their issues and they started believing us. Look at the results — we won three seats in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, and some of the ones we lost were by very thin margins.

This talk about rural-urban divide is wrong. Before 2014, it was the NCP and Congress who were ruling municipal bodies. So how can they say that we are not urban parties? I have spent my whole political life representing a ward in the PMC. So what makes me a rural leader? What I can say is that in 2014, we failed to catch up with the BJP’s strong, social media presence, where they managed to misguide the new age voter by trying to say we were a mainly rural area party. It was spread by social media, it is completely false. That has obviously changed and everyone can see the results.

How have you changed your social media activities to counter the BJP?

Unlike BJP, which has a large budget to troll people and spread lies on social media, our presence on social media is constructive. We counter the narratives of the BJP and show voters how our leaders are strong in urban areas. Projects like Hinjewadi and Magarpatta are urban projects, but this was not presented to voters. I agree that new voters were swayed by the wrong information campaign of BJP — we have countered that with constructive and better issue-based campaigns.

How will you face corporation elections which are to be held in the next three years? How do you counter the nationalistic campaign that is being run for all elections?

Our voter base is now established. We will strengthen the booth committees, we have realised the importance of social media and technology for elections. In social media, we will be proactive and positive — the BJP had run a negative campaign and they lost. We will run a positive campaign and win.

Nationalistic issues have their place but for local elections, local issues matter. So instead of harping about Article 370, we highlighted how the BJP had failed to generate jobs, or how the industrial slowdown was affect the urban voter. I must thank voters in Maharashtra for ensuring that the message that local elections should be run on local issues went out loud and clear.

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