Rajya Sabha, Legislative Council Polls: BJP plays Dhangar card, nominates Dr Vikas Mahatme for RS polls

Sources said Fadnavis’s decision had the support of the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). According to political observers, the nomination serves two objectives, both political and social.

| Mumbai | Published: May 31, 2016 5:05 am

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Monday sprung a surprise when he announced the name of Vikas Mahatme, a leading ophthalmologist from his hometown Nagpur, as a candidate for the Rajya Sabha elections due next month.

Sources said Fadnavis’s decision had the support of the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). According to political observers, the nomination serves two objectives, both political and social. Mahatme is a well-known doctor whose services to the poor has earned him a social standing in the state, particularly in Vidarbha. Secondly, he belongs to the backward Dhangar (shepherd) community, which has been demanding reservation and fighting for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe category.

For the past few years, Mahatme has been taking up issues related to the Dhangar community, especially its demand for reservation. Immediately after Devendra Fadnavis took over as the CM, Mahatme had organised a Dhangar rally in Nagpur to press for the demand. Fadnavis, who was the chief guest at the rally, had reiterated his government’s commitment to keep the election promise, which, however, has remained unfulfilled so far.

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Mahatme’s RS nomination is being seen as a political move to placate the agitated Dhangar community, and also woo Vidarbha region as a whole.

The other Rajya Sabha candidates from the BJP from Maharashtra are BJP vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Union Minister for Power Piyush Goyal, who has already filed his nomination. Though Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s name was also doing the rounds, it was finally decided to accommodate him from the BJP’s Andhra Pradesh quota. Highly placed sources in the party said it was felt that Maharashtra already had too many “heavyweight ministers” representing both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. “So, to ensure equal representation of ministers from states, Prabhu was considered from Andhra Pradesh. Also, the state had to accommodate Sahasrabuddhe from state the quota. He is working in Amit Shah’s team,” said a source.

The party also declared the list of candidates for the Legislative Council — Sujitsingh Thakur (Marathwada) and Praveen Darekar (Mumbai). Two candidates from smaller parties too got nominations. They are Sadabhau Khot from Swabhimani Shektari Sanghatana and Vinakyak Mete from Shiv Sangram.

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