While the remarks have drawn a sharp retort from the ruling coalition party with its youth wing threatening to blacken Padalkar’s face, the state BJP has distanced itself from the comments.
A Dhanger community leader, Padalkar slammed Pawar of doing politics over the long-pending issue of reservation for the community despite being part of the ruling coalition in the state.
“The NCP president Sharad Pawar is Maharashtra’s coronavirus. He has been leading the state for so many years. But still, he has not done enough for the OBCs. He’s always got the smaller communities to his sides and won their support playing divisive politics,” Padalkar said at a press conference at Pandharpur in Solapur district. “Pawar hasn’t displayed any vision nor plans to resolve the long-pending Dhanger reservation issue,” he added.
Padalkar’s remarks on Pawar has evoked sharp reaction from the ruling NCP with several party leaders and ministers warning the BJP legislator not to “cross the limits”.
NCP leader and state Housing Minister Jeetendra Awadh said, “I wonder whether Padalkar knows what he is speaking and against whom. It is like spitting on the sun. Pawar is a leader who has dedicated his entire life for the poor and backward communities… Unlike the BJP, which gave secondary treatment to leaders from other backward castes, Pawar has always prompted OBC leaders.”
Citing his own example, Awadh said there was a long list of OBC leaders who have been promoted by the party under Pawar. “Whether it is Social Justice Minister Dhananjay Munde or Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, the NCP has always rewarded OBC leaders,” he said.
Hitting out at Padalkar, Munde said Padalkar’s intention was to gain name and fame in politics by criticising the leader of the stature like Pawar.
Later in the day, former chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said Padalkar’s remarks on NCP chief were not appropriate but an emotional outburst. “I had a word with Padalkar. I told him that though Pawar saheb is our political opponent he is not our enemy. I told him that forget Pawar saheb, making such remarks against any senior leader is not appropriate… Young leaders from all parties should exercise restraint while speaking,” Fadnavis told reporters in Solapur.
Padalkar, who had contested unsuccessfully against Ajit Pawar from the Baramati constituency in 2019 Assembly polls on BJP ticket, Wednesday also claimed that while the previous government had announced a Rs 1,000 crore package for the Dhangar community, it could not be implemented as Devendra Fadnavis had to forgo power due to “backstabbing”. “But the present government has not given a single penny, so far, from that package,” he said.
Padalkar, who left the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi to join the BJP ahead of the 2019 polls, was tasked to placate the angry Dhanger community that was demanding reservation under the Scheduled Tribe category.
The shepherd community, currently, has 3.5 per cent reservation under the OBC. It is pressing for reservation under the ST category, which comes under the Centre’s jurisdiction.
Criticising Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for the government’s failure to address the community’s demands, Padalkar threatened they would not to allow the CM to perform the annual puja at Pandharpur on Ekadashi. He also expressed disappointment with the state government’s decision to disallow “warkaris” pilgrimage to temple town Pandharpu.
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