The BJP is likely to have a new Maharashtra president, with current chief Chandrakant Patil reportedly keen to join the newly formed government of the BJP and Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. In case he gets a Cabinet berth, sources said, Patil might not serve his full term till February 2023.
Incidentally, the one person who was looking forward to taking over from Patil was Devendra Fadnavis. After a decision was taken that Shinde would lead the coalition government, Fadnavis had publicly expressed his wish to not join the ministry but support it from outside. However, he had to change his mind and accept the Deputy CM’s post after the BJP leadership intervened.
Patil was PWD minister in the earlier government led by Fadnavis, at the head of a BJP-Shiv Sena coalition, between 2014 and 2019. He was made BJP Maharashtra president ahead of the Assembly elections in 2019.
Sources said that with an eye on social engineering and on expanding its base in rural Maharashtra, the BJP is likely to have an OBC leader as its next president. The Central leadership might also entrust the job to one of its former senior ministers, some leaders said.
While several names are being discussed, the frontrunners are Ram Shinde and Chandrashekhar Bawankule.
An OBC leader as chief, the BJP feels, will balance out the fact that Shinde is a Maratha. The party also expects it to give it an edge considering the fact that the MVA government is on the backfoot over the issue of OBC reservation in local bodies. The Supreme Court had rejected its petition to put off elections to local bodies till an OBC census was done.
Now in power itself, the BJP is working on the Madhya Pradesh model to have its OBC data cleared. MP Chief Minister Shivjraj Singh Chauhan had got the court nod for its data, collected in a short span of four months, for local body polls.
A senior party functionary said that Fadnavis, who as per all accounts hoped to become the CM again after toppling the MVA government, wanted to tour the state to begin campaigning for the 2024 Assembly elections. With just half the tenure left of the current government, he didn’t want to hitch himself to it.
The BJP logic was that a senior leader such as Fadnavis was needed to ensure the stability of the new government, formed after a rebellion within the Shiv Sena.