Indicating that any future reconciliation with the Shiv Sena may be difficult if it continues attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party's Maharashtra president Chandrakant Patil hinted that senior party leader Eknath Khadse may have to settle for a sinecure as 'margdarshak', instead of seeking an active political role.
Khadse, the Bahujan face of the BJP and a leader of the OBC Leva Patil community, was edged out by Devendra Fadnavis in the race for the chief minister’s post in 2014. He had to quit as the revenue minister after allegations against him. While Khadse was denied an assembly nomination, his daughter Rohini, who was fielded instead, from his Jalgaon seat, lost the polls, in what his partisans claim was internal sabotage. He was also passed over for a legislative council nomination and included as a special invitee to the state executive in Patil’s team.
Patil has also accused National Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar of minority appeasement by questioning if the ground-breaking for the Ram temple will eradicate corona. Further, Patil claims that Uddhav Thackeray lacks the skills to be a chief minister and has slammed the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: How would you assess Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership?
A: He is a good karyakararta (worker), but as chief minister, he lacks experience and has zero grip on the administration. To learn the ropes, he must be on the field to impose his writ, but that has not happened. Doctors, nurses, and the police have been asked to be in the field during the Corona pandemic, but if you work in the field as CM, this motivates others. He sits in Matoshree and guides people. Uddhavji lacks the skills required to be a chief minister.
Q: NCP chief Sharad Pawar has questioned if building the Ram temple will eradicate corona…
A: Did (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi claim that the Ram Mandir would eradicate Corona? He is doing everything to conquer it. The Maharashtra government did not announce a penny in packages, but the Modi regime gave subsidised grain and monthly doles to the poor. Modi has done everything to provide relief to people and is conducting the shilanyas of the Ram temple based on the Supreme Court’s decision. He will not conduct rituals for three days, but attend the programme for just 15 minutes. The guest list is limited to just 300 and social distancing norms will be followed. Pawar is comparing two different things. Where does his problem lie - with the Ram Mandir or corona?
Q: Senior BJP leaders Eknath Khadse and Pankaja Munde have not been given any senior position in your state executive.
A: After a certain stage, people become so senior that there is no position worth their stature in Maharashtra. Can Nathabhau (Eknath) Khadse be made the state unit vice-president? He is too senior. Such people are accommodated as special invitees to the executive. The same holds true for Pankajatai, as she has held all positions in Maharashtra. She is a part of the core committee, which tops the hierarchy. At a certain stage, there are no responsibilities that suit an individual, and it is expected that they must work as margdarshaks. Coming to Pankajatai, she has expressed a desire to work at the Centre.
Q: Can Khadse be considered for electoral posts or must be content only as a margdarshak?
A: Who can foresee the future? But in the BJP, after a certain stage, a senior worker is expected to serve as a margdarshak. There is a precedent for this, where people say they have taken all major responsibilities, and hence, they will attend meetings, guide others and make suggestions. Something may arise from this in the future.
Q: BJP leaders claim they can destabilise the government…
A: Have we ever claimed this in public? Why are they (MVA) running scared? This is because they are paranoid.
Q: The BJP and the Shiv Sena are natural allies. Can they come together in the future?
A: I don’t know, but in politics, equations change in a night. But today, this situation does not exist. The Shiv Sena has reached the extreme end, and it is tough for it to return to its original point from there. After all, to reunify, it is necessary to be careful in matters of words and behaviour. But these protocols have not been followed in the past six to seven months. Coming together after this will not be so easy.
Q: What about the NCP? You were part of a short-lived arrangement…
A: There is no reason. Sharad Pawar has linked the Ram Mandir bhoomi poojan to corona, only to appease a particular community. We have never done this and believe in a national agenda. Hence, this combination will not work.