As part of the BJP’s makeover strategy ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls in Maharashtra, several party veterans have fallen by the wayside with the BJP, denying tickets to two sitting ministers and its chief whip in the House, among others.
Stunning the state BJP unit in the fourth list of candidates released Friday, the BJP replaced Vinod Tawde, and Chandrasekhar Bawankule (both sitting ministers), Eknath Khadse and Prakash Mehta (former ministers in the Fadnavis government) and the party’s chief whip in the Assembly, Raj Purohit.
Early Friday, Tawde was informed by a BJP leader that he will be replaced in the Borivali constituency in Mumbai. Tawde contested state elections from Borivali for the first time in in the 2014 state polls.
“Tawde had called the Chief Minister Thursday to know why his name was being withheld and had also met state BJP president Chandrakant Patil and party central observers,” said a BJP source.
Around 1.30 am on Friday, a party leader later contacted Tawde to say the party’s leadership had chosen to field Sunil Rane from Borivali.
Tawde put up a brave face. “I’ll do some serious introspection to find out what my mistakes and shortcomings were. I am also sure the party will introspect to ascertain the facts and whether there was some wrong feedback or misunderstanding in my case. Being an RSS and BJP worker, I’ll continue to work for the party. The question of joining any other party does not arise,” he said.
Six-time MLA Eknath Khadse, who once enjoyed the number two position in the Fadnavis Cabinet, was also denied a ticket. His daughter Rohini Khadse has been nominated instead from Muktainagar.
In 2016, Khadse was forced to step down as minister following allegations of graft and impropriety in a Pune land deal. Since then, Khadse has often fired barbs at Fadnavis and the government in the House, causing some embarrassment to the ruling party.
Sources said the party leadership disapproved Khadse’s defiance to file his nomination for the election before his name was cleared. According to sources, the party wanted to convey a strong message by denying him a ticket.
A crestfallen Khadse, once a serious contender for chief minister’s post, hinted that he would retire from politics. “When your son can step into your shoes comfortably, it shows he can manage the show on his own and it is time for you to retire,” he said.
Another surprise in Maharashtra is the denial of a ticket to Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule from Kamptee (in Vidharbha). While the party has replaced him with the little known Tekchand Sawarkar, Bawankule’s wife, Jyoti, has filed her nomination as an independent in the same constituency.
Bawankule sought to play down the decision. “There is no question of any injustice being done to me. We have carried out so much development in the constituency that anyone from the party can win here. I’m sure that the party has a larger role for me in the election campaign,” he said.
In Mumbai, former housing minister Prakash Mehta, who was dropped from the Fadnavis Cabinet in June this year, after allegations against him in a slum redevelopment project, has been replaced by Parag Shah, a party corporator, in Ghatkopar (East).
The move drew a sharp reaction from his supporters, who attacked Shah’s car when he came to visit Mehta before filing his nomination. Shah, among the richest corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, had his car’s windshield smashed by Mehta’s supporters, who also insisted Mehta file his nomination as an Independent candidate.
Another leader denied a ticket is six-time MLA Raj Purohit, who is said to have had a running feud with current Mumbai BJP president and MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha. Purohit had fallen out of favour in the party after a video emerged in which he was allegedly seen making comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
He has been replaced by Rahul Narvekar, who was the Opposition NCP’s member in the Legislative Council.