Mumbai: With a clean sweep for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Dhule Municipal Corporation polls, senior party leader and Minister for Water Resources Girish Mahajan, has emerged as its sole Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader in north Maharashtra.
A member of the Leva-Gujar community, an OBC subcaste, Mahajan has successfully replaced the former BJP minister Eknath Khadse, a Leva-Patil, who used to be the other OBC leader from the region which comprises Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar and Nashik districts. Mahajan, the man with a plan and the support of 200 party workers from his own constituency, Jamner, wangled this victory for his party. The BJP, which had contested 62 of the total 74 seats in Dhule, saw a seventeen-fold improvement in its performance, from a mere three seats in 2013.
“The efforts of a specially trained team from his own constituency is not the only reason for the success in Jalgaon, Nashik and now in Dhule. Mahajan has organised medical camps for the last 15 years, shown a readiness to help people at all times and his attachment to the common man are the other reasons for his success,” said political analyst Kiran Tare.
Once, Khadse was known as the face of the BJP in north Maharashtra. After his resignation due to his alleged involvement in a land scam, the BJP has almost sidelined Khadse, nurturing and promoting Mahajan as the emerging leader of the region.
After the recent implementation of Maratha reservation by the Fadnavis government, the Dhule and Ahmednagar civic polls were a litmus test for the BJP. In Dhule, the party successfully swept the polls, whereas in Ahmednagar, it managed a poor fourth. Its saffron ally, the Shiv Sena, surprisingly emerged as the largest party and kingmaker, winning 22 of the 68 seats.
As the BJP and the Sena do not have a good equation in Ahmednagar, it is hardly possible that they will come together to assume power in the civic body. Instead, there are possibilities of a new equation between the BJP and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). This decision however, is incumbent on the results of the assembly polls from the five states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana, to be declared on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the landslide defeat of the rebel BJP legislator Anil Gote, leader of the Lok Sangram Party, in the Dhule civic polls has only served to underline people’s rejection of egoistic leadership.
Mahajan, however, refuted claims that he had became the leader of the region, saying he had only validated the trust reposed in him by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Fadnavis had made him in-charge of the Jalgaon municipal corporation poll and the party won a majority, bagging 57 of the 75 seats in August. In Nashik, the BJP had won 33 seats and also emerged victorious in the Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll. Based on these results, Fadnavis had entrusted Mahajan with the responsibility of Dhule civic polls.
For Subhash Bhamre, minister of state for defence, the victory in Dhule city has practically ensured there are no hurdles in his way on the road to the Dhule assembly seat, for which polling will be held in 2019. Bhamre is more likely to contest the assembly seat rather than the Lok Sabha constituency which he currently represents. Given Gote’s stinging criticism of Fadnavis, Bhamre, Jaykumar Rawal, the BJP minister for tourism and Raosaheb Danve, the state president of the BJP, in the lead-up to the civic polls, it is certain that Gote will not be the party’s candidate in the 2019 assembly polls. In this case, he is likely to seek support from the Shiv Sena, if the Sena will not forge an alliance with the BJP in the next polls.