BJP state President Chandrakant Patil
BJP state President Chandrakant Patil

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to induct new blood while accommodating some from the old guard in its state executive, which is likely to be declared next week. Sidelined leaders, including former ministers Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Vinod Tawade, are likely to figure in the state unit president and former minister Chandrakant Patil’s team.

“Like the selection of candidates for the recent state legislative assembly elections, the new state executive may throw up some surprises. There is a slim chance that leaders like Eknath Khadse, who have been sidelined by the high-command and have made their disgruntlement obvious, will be accommodated here,” a senior BJP leader told the Free Press Journal.

He said, however, that former energy and state excise minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule, who was not re-nominated from his Kamthi constituency in Nagpur district, may be taken into Patil’s team as a general secretary. Former education minister Vinod Tawade may also be brought into the party organisation.

Bawankule belongs to the Teli community, which along with the Kunbis and the Malis, form significant numbers among the other backward classes (OBCs) in Vidarbha. BJP leaders admit that the party’s decision to drop Bawankule affected their chances in several seats in the region.

Former minister Dr Sanjay Kute may be retained as a general secretary. Nashik Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Devyani Pharande is likely to be promoted to the post. Some other likely faces in the state executive include former tribal development minister Ashok Uike and Gadchiroli MLAs Devrao Holi and Hemant Patle.

“There is a chance that around 80 per cent of the new functionaries may be fresh faces, with veterans making way for them,” the BJP leader admitted. However, senior leaders may be accommodated in the party’s core committee for the state.

Though the name of former minister Pankaja Munde, the daughter of BJP stalwart Gopinath Munde, who faced a shock defeat at the hands of her estranged cousin and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister Dhananjay Munde from Parli in Beed is doing the rounds, BJP leaders are apprehensive if she will be willing to take up the responsibility.

Gopinath Munde, who belonged to the Vanjari community, was BJP’s tallest leader in the state with a strong base in the other backward classes.

Pankaja’s supporters attribute her defeat to a camp led by former chief minister and incumbent Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis. Pankaja often pitched herself as a chief ministerial aspirant and pointed to her Bahujan (non-Brahmin) support base.

In the recent nominations to the state legislative council elections, the BJP had sprung a surprise by edging out OBC leaders like Khadse, Munde, Ram Shinde, and Bawankule, in favour of a fresh generation of other backward leaders like Gopichand Padalkar, Ramesh Karad and Pravin Datke.

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