Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Laxman Jagtap, a three-time MLA from the Chinchwad constituency in Pune district, passed away after a protracted illness on Tuesday.
According to sources, Jagtap, who had been battling cancer for some time, had managed to triumph the disease only to relapse again recently. He breathed his last at a hospital in Pune’s Baner area.
Jagtap is the second important leader — and sitting MLA — from Pune from the BJP to succumb in less than a fortnight after Kasba Peth lawmaker and ex-Mayor Mukta Tilak passed away on December 23 last year.
Known for his strong voter connect, Jagtap has been synonymous with the development of the Pimpri-Chinchwad township.
Paying rich tributes to his leadership and vision, BJP leader and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said: “This is an extremely sad occurrence and the second blow for us in Pune district.... Laxman Jagtap had a massive hand in the development of Pimpri-Chinchwad. He had been battling with this illness for a long time. Just as we thought he had emerged from it, he had to admitted again. His dedication to the party was evident during the voting for the Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad by-elections last year when he turned up despite our urging him not to do so.”
Despite his ill health, Jagtap had turned up in a PPE kit in Mumbai to vote for BJP candidates during the crucial Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad (State Legislative Council) byelections, which took place just before Eknath Shinde’s revolt and the toppling of the MVA government, leading to the formation of the new Shinde-Fadnavis government.
Formerly the point man for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Ajit Pawar, it was Jagtap’s defection to the BJP in 2014 that single-handedly helped turn the fortunes of the saffron party in the Pimpri-Chinchwad area, where it hitherto had had no toehold.
Jagtap’s entry into the BJP was followed by the exodus of top erstwhile NCP heavyweights like Bhosari legislator Mahesh Landge, and senior NCP leaders Azam Pansare and Yashwant Bhosale into the saffron party.
These ex-NCP satraps, especially Jagtap, became key architects of the BJP’s massive landslide victory in the crucial Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation poll in 2017, followed by the party’s successes there in the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections in 2019 as well.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Jagtap had buried the hatchet with his political nemesis in Pimpri-Chinchwad — the Shiv Sena’s MP from Maval, Shrirang Barne.
This patch-up was instrumental in the defeat of Ajit Pawar’s son, Parth Pawar — the NCP’s candidate from Maval in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. It was Jagtap’s initiative which helped the BJP breach Pimpri-Chinchwad — which was considered to be Ajit Pawar’s impregnable bastion until then.
CM Eknath Shinde paid condolences by remarking that in his death, the “BJP had lost a loyalist and a strong leader.”
Pune Guardian Minister and BJP MLA from Kothrud Chandrakant Patil said Jagtap was “a true people’s leader,” who fought for the problems of common people in his constituency.
“Had we not received the votes of Muktatai and Laxmanbhau, the BJP’s third candidate would not have won the RS seat in the by-poll held last year… He [Jagtap] was extremely dedicated as is evident from the work he did in Pimpri-Chinchwad,” Mr. Patil said.
Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar too mourned the loss of his once close colleague, remarking that Jagtap had worked passionately and diligently for people’s causes.