October 1, 2019 7:09:46 pm
The exclusion of Maharashtra minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule in the BJP’s first list of 125 candidates for the state Assembly polls has given rise to speculation that the party has a different constituency in mind for him.
Holding the state portfolio of Energy and Power, Bawankule is also the Nagpur District Guardian Minister. He is considered close to both Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and has won three previous elections from Kamptee constituency in Nagpur district.
He is also considered the fourth most prominent face from the BJP from Vidarbha behind Gadkari, Fadnavis and State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Sources said that the BJP has Katol constituency in mind for Bawankule. Ashish Deshmukh, who had joined the party in 2014, had won the Lok Sabha elections that year, defeating his uncle Anil Deshmukh of the NCP.
Deshmukh, however, quit the BJP in October last year over the issue of farm distress. Speculation is rife that the party may fill Bawankule from Katol as he has the “potential” to win from there. Bawankule, however, is said to be reluctant to forego his pet Kamptee seat. “I will wait for the next list instead of surmising anything from the first list,” he told The Indian Express.
Bawankule is a key player in Vidarbha and was handed over the responsibility for the recent Wardha Lok Sabha election. He will also be in-charge of Bhandara Assembly polls this month. Interestingly, Bawankule’s mentor Gadkari was in the meeting at Delhi that released the first list.
Meanwhile, Fadnavis, the first BJP chief minister of the state, will seek a consecutive fifth term from Nagpur South West.
The party affected two changes in the 2014 winners list. Sudhakar Kohale was replaced by Mohan Mate in Nagpur South and Raju Todsam was replaced by Sandip Dhurve in Arni (ST) constituency in Yavatmal district. Todsam was caught in a controversial videotape where his wife was seen in a fracas with another woman who claimed to have married Todsam, at a kabaddi tournament at Pandharkawada where Todsam was also present.
Kohale, who was, a few months ago, the city BJP President, did not make the grade apparently due to poor performance. BJP’s spokesperson Girish Vyas, however, said, “There is nothing like that. The party could be having something else in store for him.”
Mate, who replaced Kohale, is believed to be a close confidante of Fadnavis and had won from Nagpur South in 1999. “Mate is a popular leader of the party from there,” Vyas said.
With the BJP also announcing candidate for Chikhli (Buldana), speculation about the present Congress MLA Rahul Bondre joining the party has been laid to rest.
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