After her humiliating defeat inthe last assembly elections and repeated attacks against the BJP leadership, former minister Pankaja Munde, daughter of late veteran leader Gopinath Munde, has been rehabilitated. In an intra-party reshuffle by BJP president JP Nadda on Saturday, Pankaja has been appointed as a national secretary. Vinod Tawde, who held education portfolio in the Devendra Fadnavis government and was denied a ticket for the state polls, too has been made a national secretary.
The party has already given the charge of its Bihar election campaign to Fadnavis. The revamp, which saw many big national leaders making way for others and the entry of firebrand politician from Karnataka Tejasvi Surya, didn’t include former minister and senior leader Eknath Khadse, who had recently attacked Fadnavis. While Khadse has denied reportsof himleavingtheparty, sources said,the leadershipis upset that he has stepped up his criticism of the BJP Pankaja, an OBC leader, was denied the state council ticket nor had she found a place in BJP’s newly constituted Maharashtra state executive. A disgruntled Pankaja had repeatedly targeted ex-CM Fadnavis, stopping short of leaving the party.
Pankaja had faced allegations of corruption at the beginning of her tenure in the earlier BJP-led government. After her defeat in the assembly elections, she had accused the party leadership of planting reports that she was leaving the BJP. "The media debates and discusses about me quitting the party or mounting pressure on party leadership. This is being deliberately done by 'some' people to ensure that I don't get any particular party post. I would like to make it very clear that I am not even lobbying for any post," she had alleged, apparently targeting Fadnavis.
In another indication of not aligning with the BJP, she had recently disapproved of the party's attack on the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government on its handling of the Covid-19 crisis. However, Tawde has been maintaining a low profile. Unlike Pankaja and Khadse, he neither targeted the BJP leadership nor made any attempt to migrate to other parties.
Two more leaders from Maharashtra—Vijaya Rahatkar, a former chairman of State Women Commission, and Sunil Deodhar, who played a major role in bringing the BJP to power from the CPM in Tripura—have also become national secretaries.
BJP MP Hina Gavit, who was elected for the second term from the tribal-dominated Nandurbar district in north Maharashtra, has been included in the list of national spokespersons. Another leader from the state, Jamal Siddiqui, will head the BJP’s frontal organisation for minorities at the national level.