WITH Eknath Shinde taking over as the 20th chief minister of Maharashtra and slated to induct his ministers in next two days, a leader from Pimpri-Chinchwad may, for the first time, get a place in the state Cabinet.
The BJP has two MLAs in Pimpri-Chinchwad: Laxman Jagtap and Mahesh Landge. Jagtap, a two time MLA from Chinchwad constituency, has been battling serious health issues for a few months. He is not in consideration for a ministerial berth, said a BJP leader.
The other strong contender for a ministerial berth is Mahesh Landge, who is the chief of BJP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit. Landge, a two-time MLA from Bhosari, is known for his proximity to Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Last month, Fadnavis was effusive in his praise of Landge for being instrumental in getting bullock cart races restarted in Maharashtra.
In the first BJP regime in the state under Fadnavis, from 2014 to 2019, both Landge and Jagtap were considered strong contenders for Cabinet positions. Neither leader, however, got a ministerial berth despite Cabinet expansions.
“Last time, Maheshdada could not make it to the Cabinet. This time, we are hoping he will. Then, Pimpri-Chinchwad will get a ministerial post for the first time,” Landge’s brother Kartik told The Indian Express on Friday. He added, “We were all thinking that it would be Fadnavis who would be the chief minister… but our top leadership has made the decision and we all have to accept it.”
“A ministerial berth for Pimpri-Chinchwad is long overdue… Mahesh Landge is currently the favourite. Landge had been at the forefront of demands to restart bullock cart races. It was he who approached the Supreme Court and got the races started. The party gained a lot because of his initiative,” said BJP leader Sarang Kamtekar.
Congress leader Babu Nair said if Mahesh Landge becomes a state minister this time, he will be the first leader from the city to do so. “Earlier, Congress leader Ramkrishna More had become a state minister. He was handling the charge of Pimpri-Chinchwad but he was actually not from the city. He was representing Pune rural area,” he said.