Other States

With polls in mind, BJP appoints Chandrashekhar Bawankule as new Maharashtra State President

The Bharatiya Janata Party appointed MLC Chandrashekhar Bawankule as the state unit president on August 12.

The Bharatiya Janata Party appointed MLC Chandrashekhar Bawankule as the state unit president on August 12. | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has appointed the prominent OBC leader, MLC Chandrashekhar Bawankule, as the new president of the party’s Maharashtra unit after the erstwhile BJP State chief Chandrakant Patil was recently inducted into the new Cabinet.

Mr. Bawankule’s appointment completes the caste symmetry the party has been seeking, with Shiv Sena leader and Chief Minister Mr. Shinde being the Maratha face and BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis offering Brahmin representation.

According to a party statement, BJP national president J.P. Nadda had appointed Mr. Bawankule as the Maharashtra State chief and Bandra West MLA Ashish Shelar as the new president of the BJP’s Mumbai unit. Mr. Shelar, a former Minister in the erstwhile BJP-Sena government of 2014-2019, replaces Mangal Prabhat Lodha.

Mr. Bawankule and Mr. Shelar were being considered for the respective posts over the past few days, after both leaders did not find a place in the new Cabinet of 18 Ministers (nine each from the BJP and the Eknath Shinde-led Sena faction).

Poll play

The OBC community accounts for more than 35% of the State’s populace (as per the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission).

It was during the tenure of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, last year, that the Supreme Court had scrapped the 27% OBC reservation in the State’s local bodies for not fulfilling the “triple test” criteria.

This led the BJP, led by Mr. Fadnavis, to accuse the MVA of dragging its feet over the issue, alleging that the tripartite coalition had virtually “murdered” the OBC reservation issue in the State

Against this backdrop, the appointment of Mr. Bawankule — an influential and aggressive leader from the Vidarbha region — is indicative of the party’s focus on the 2024 General and State Assembly elections.

Likewise, Mr. Shelar’s appointment comes in wake of the upcoming high-stakes Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election, which will see the BJP-rebel Sena faction pitted against Thackeray’s Shiv Sena group.

“The fact that our high command has nominated an experienced leader like Mr. Shelar as Mumbai city chief has special importance. In the last civic poll (2017), he was responsible for helping the BJP gain 82 seats (in the BMC) from its earlier tally of 35,” said BJP national general secretary Vinod Tawde.

The cash-rich BMC, said to be the richest civic body in Asia, is the Shiv Sena’s lifeline and power-base and the party’s major resource centre in Maharashtra. 

While the Sena has held absolute sway over the Mumbai civic body for two decades, the BJP — riding high on the ‘Narendra Modi wave’ — had rattled its former ally in the 2017 election, when it snared 82 of the total 227 seats, second only to the Sena’s tally of 84 seats.

The Sena had later increased its strength to 97 with the support of some independents and the defection of some corporators from the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Wanting to retain control Sena’s control over the BMC, Mr. Thackeray had increased the number of municipal wards from 227 20 236 during his tenure as CM. This miffed even aggrieved its MVA ally, the Congress.

Mr. Shinde, however, reversed the decision soon after assuming office.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2022 1:10:12 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bjp-appoints-chandrashekharbawankule-as-maharashtra-chief-ashish-shelar-returns-as-mumbai-unit-head/article65761757.ece