Mumbai: The defeat of Pankaja Munde and Rohini Khadse has quashed the hopes of the OBC leadership in the BJP of presiding over the state’s fortunes.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has thus succeeded in fending off the challenge posed by the OBC leaders in the party to his leadership. In the run-up to the assembly poll, in a well thought-out strategy, no ticket was given to Vinod Tawde, a Bahujan samaj leader, and an aspirant to the CM's post.
Pankaja is the daughter of Gopinath Munde, the party stalwart who was the OBC face of the BJP until his sudden death in 2014. His natural political heir, Pankaja, had aggressively engaged the Congress-NCP government and also led a Sangharsh Yatra. After the 2014 assembly election, when Fadnavis was made CM, she had openly declared, she was the CM of people's hearts.
Thereafter, the OBC lobby had projected her as the next chief minister. However, her public outpouring of wanting to become the next CM caused Fadnavis to feel threatened and he systematically began digging her political grave.
The documents related to the scam in her women and child welfare department were leaked to none other than her cousin, the leader of the opposition in the legislative council and her arch rival, Dhananjay Munde. This scam dented Pankaja's image.
Later, she was divested of the important ministry of water conservation, which was earning accolades for its Jalyukta Shivar.
When Union home minister and national party chief Amit Shah addressed an election rally, her supporters had aggressively demanded she be made the CM.
Now, it is being said that Fadnavis has ensured that Dhananjay Munde would get the support of the administration during the election and this had resulted in her defeat.
When the BJP first came to power in 2014, the natural claimant to the CM position was Eknath Khadse, the senior-most BJP leader who had a big role in exposing the misdeeds of the Congress-NCP regime, in his capacity as the leader of the opposition in the assembly.
Around this time, land purchase documents related to Khadse were leaked to the media and he was sacked from the cabinet. An inquiry was instituted against him, but the findings of the report were never tabled.
He was denied a ticket in this assembly election and, instead, forced to accept one for his daughter Rohini. Shiv Sena rebel Chandrakant N Patil contested against Rohini and was supported by the Sena, the BJP's anti-Khadse faction and the Congress and the NCP. This ensured Rohini's and, thereby, Khadse's defeat in the end.