BJP MLC Gopichand Padalkar
BJP MLC Gopichand Padalkar

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of the state Legislative Council (MLC) Gopichand Padalkar, a close confidant of former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, stoked a controversy by calling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar the ‘corona’ that has infected Maharashtra on Wednesday. Padalkar also accused the former union minister of politicising the long-pending issue of reservation for the Dhangar (shepherd) community.

NCP hit back at the BJP over Padalkar's objectionable comments. Leaders from the opposition party have been making some or the other statements each day. So, they should not be taken seriously. Members of the NCP's youth wing, led by its state unit head Mehboob Sheikh, staged a protest in Beed against Padalkar. They hit Padalkar's poster with their footwear and set it on fire.

BJP, as well as Fadnavis, immediately disowned Padalkar’s statement, saying that it was wrong to make derogatory remarks. “Pawar is a political opponent, but not an enemy,’’ noted the former chief minister.

Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad warned Padalkar to mind his language, while party MLC Amol Mitkari lauded Pawar as a ‘Bahujan (non-Brahmin) leader’, who is held in high esteem by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Incensed NCP youth wing activists threatened to blacken Padalkar’s face.

Earlier, Padalkar, who hails from the Dhangar community, at a press conference, alleged that the ‘bahujan samaj’ has been suffering because of the policies of Pawar, whose party is a key constituent in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. "According to me, Sharad Pawar is the ‘corona’ that has infected the state. Pawar has always taken steps that would hamper the prospects of masses," he alleged.

"I do not think he (Pawar) is positive about the Dhangar reservation," the MLC said.

In 2019, Padalkar jumped ship to Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and contested the state assembly elections from Sangli before joining BJP and losing to Pawar’s nephew and DCM Ajit Pawar from Baramati.

Another NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto took a dig at Padalkar with a cartoon, which depicts the BJP's symbol lotus as being the puppet master, which pulled the strings as the BJP MLC made the remark.

NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakde condemned Padalkar's ‘undeserving’ comment against Pawar, and said the party will stage an agitation in the city on Thursday against the MLC's remarks.

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