Water Resources and Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan is rapidly rising through the ranks. After acting as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ chief trouble-shooter in successfully handling stirs over milk prices and the farmers’ unrest and Anna Hazare’s agitation, Mahajan has now emerged as the BJP’s chief negotiator to woo high-profile defections from the Opposition. Sources said that Mahajan was at the centre of Sujay Vikhe-Patil’s defection to join the BJP, and also held discussion with another heavyweight, NCP’s Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil. Incidentally, Mahajan’s rise has coincided with the continuing decline of his party arch rival, Eknath Khadse, establishing him as the BJP’s face in North Maharashtra.
When Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray took the stage this past week to address the first joint rally of workers from the BJP and the Shiv Sena after their patch-up, all eyes were on Thackeray’s speech. After all, he had been among the sharpest and vocal critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact, just three months ago, Thackeray had even mouthed the Congress’ oft-repeated jibe of ‘chowkidar chor hai’ to attack Modi. Displaying a new-found bonhomie with Modi, Thackeray, in a volte-face, spoke on how Modi was always “Narendra bhai (brother)” to him, and how there was “no alternative to Modi for the country’s top job. As they say, politics is the art of the impossible.
State’s Tourism Minister Jaikumar Rawal has taken a liking to Ramtek, the spacious sea-facing government bungalow in Malabar Hill. The famous address had been branded as a “jinxed abode” following Eknath Khadse’s unceremonious exit from the government in 2016. After seeking an initial allotment for three months, Rawal has now been allotted the government bungalow till further orders. While there are tales of how battles were once waged between ministers to retain the bungalow, the bungalow had acquired the dubious superstitious tag since all those who had occupied it in recent times – former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, former Deputy CM Gopinath Munde, NCP’s Chaggan Bhujbal and Khadse courted trouble.
Speculation is rife over Samajwadi Party’s attempts to get actor Sanjay Dutt to contest from Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad seat; but if our sources are to be believed the actor himself does not seem too keen to enter the electoral ring. While Dutt was associated with Akhilesh Yadav’s party in the past, he had earlier said that he had made a mistake by entering politics. Dutt’s father (late) Sunil Dutt was a Congress veteran, and a former Union Minister, while sister Priya Dutt is a former Congress MP. The Congress has renominated her from the Mumbai North Central for 2019 as well.
Former Maharashtra minister Abdul Sattar, who is also a sitting MLA, could be nominated by the Congress to take on Maharashtra BJP president Raosaheb Danve in Jalna. While the Congress camp had previously been in talks with Shiv Sena minister Arjun Khotkar who had dared Danve, sources said that the latter had pulled out of the race, and was now not keen to join the Congress. Sattar, if nominated, could also be the sole Muslim candidate offered a ticket by the Congress in the state.
(Compiled by Sandeep Ashar)