Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s list of candidates for the MLC (members of the legislative council) polls in Maharashtra, scheduled for 20 June, bears Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis’ stamp. Those nominated are known to be close to the BJP leader.
Former state minister Pankaja Munde’s name, however, did not figure on the list
The party Wednesday renominated Pravin Darekar, who was leader of opposition in the upper house, and Prasad Lad — both said to be close confidants of Fadnavis.
The other three candidates include Ram Shinde, who was a minister in the former Fadnavis-led Maharashtra cabinet from 2014 to 2019; Srikant Bharatiya, the former chief minister’s officer on special duty; and Uma Khapre.
It is believed that with Fadnavis’ growing influence within the Maharashtra BJP, a silent resentment among the party’s old guard has been increasing. Munde is said to be among those whose political stature has allegedly suffered with Fadnavis’ growth.
The daughter of late Union minister and BJP stalwart Gopinath Munde, Pankaja was also part of the Fadnavis-led cabinet.
Over the years, Munde has subtly expressed her discomfort on a number of occasions, but stopped short of any form of open rebellion.
In a rally in December 2019, after losing the Maharashtra assembly election, Munde had alleged that the BJP was being “controlled by a handful of people”, and said discussions about her quitting the party were being deliberately engineered to ensure she does not get any post.
Chandrakant Patil, BJP Maharashtra President, though, told reporters Wednesday that everyone in the party, “including Devendraji”, had tried to push for Munde’s candidature this year.
“In our party, we are all blank envelopes. We go to whatever address is written on it. Those in politics can have a desire, but the organisation’s central leadership takes a final decision and it is binding,” said Patil.
“To make Pankaja tai’s candidature happen, all of us, including Devendraji, made a lot of efforts, but the central leadership must have had some vision. Pankaja tai is already party secretary. There might be some other thoughts on what her future might be,” he added.
ThePrint reached Munde by phone for a comment, but her number was unreachable.
The Munde-BJP rift
One of the early signs of Munde’s discomfort with Fadnavis’ leadership came in 2016 when the former CM re-allocated the water conservation portfolio — under which his flagship Jalyukt Shivar scheme was constituted — from Munde’s charge. Fadnavis gave the portfolio to Ram Shinde, whose name is now on the MLC poll candidates list.
Munde’s name was left out of the list of MLC candidates in 2020 too. The party placated her then by appointing her as national secretary in September 2020.
The BJP, though, seemingly snubbed the Munde family once again last year when Munde’s sister, Lok Sabha MP Pritam Munde, was vying for a Union cabinet berth. The BJP leadership picked Narayan Rane instead as cabinet minister, and Bharati Pawar, Kapil Patil and Bhagwat Karad as junior ministers. That selection, too, had Fadnavis’ stamp.
The decision to choose Karad, a Rajya Sabha MP, over Munde especially stung since he, like the Mundes, also belongs to the Vanjari community among the Other Backward Classes.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)