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What Vinod Tawde’s elevation means for BJP in Maharashtra

BJP leader Vinod Tawde  

Former Maharashtra Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinod Tawde’s elevation as general secretary has sent out numerous signals for the party’s Maharashtra unit. Mr. Tawde’s promotion comes after two years of wandering in the political wilderness after he was denied a ticket in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election.

As State Education Minister in the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP Government, the former Borivali MLA had been conspicuously sidelined by Mr. Fadnavis, who perceived Mr. Tawde as one of the contenders for the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s post and his natural rival.

Factionalism in party

Mr. Fadnavis had also changed Mr. Tawde’s portfolios a number of times during the latter’s Cabinet tenure. But unlike other bitter rivals of Mr. Fadnavis, notably Eknath Khadse — who finally went over to Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — or Pankaja Munde (daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde), Mr. Tawde has shown admirable restraint even after he was denied a ticket, desisting from voicing his objections against either his party or Mr. Fadnavis.

“The Maharashtra BJP has always been divided into factions — one consisting of the camp of [Union Minister] Nitin Gadkari and the other comprising loyalists of the late Gopinath Munde. Mr. Tawde has been close to Mr. Gadkari,” says senior political analyst Vivek Bhavsar.

According to him, ever since Mr. Fadnavis became Chief Minister in 2014, the latter’s objective has been to politically finish off all actual and perceived rivals, which in effect meant doing away with the representatives of both the Gadkari and Munde camps.

“Mr. Fadnavis, ever a keen student of Prime Minister Modi’s methods, wanted to build his own coterie of loyalists by doing away with Mr. Khadse, Mr. Tawde and Ms. Munde among others. Mr. Tawde’s promotion means that Mr. Fadnavis will have to adopt a more ‘inclusive’ style of functioning in the future and stop intra-party politicking,” observes Mr. Bhavsar.

The so-called ‘Fadnavis clique’ which consisted of Girish Mahajan and a host of ‘imported’ leaders like Ram Kadam (formerly Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) and Prasad Lad (formerly of the Nationalist Congress Party), sparked disgruntlement among party loyalists.

“There is a strong undertow of resentment against Mr. Fadnavis owing to the fact that the indigenous BJP leaders have been repeatedly slighted in favour of party loyalists,” says another city-based analyst.

This intra-party schism reached a helm when Mr. Khadse, Ms. Munde and other OBC leaders, who were either denied a ticket or suffered defeats in the 2019 Assembly election, blamed Mr. Fadnavis for engineering their defeats and chastised him for his ‘authoritarian style’ of running the Maharashtra BJP and eliminating his potential rivals in a Machiavellian fashion.

In December 2019, Ms. Munde had staged a show of strength at Gopinathgadh in Beed district on the occasion of her father’s birth anniversary where Mr. Khadse and another OBC leader Prakash Mehta were present. Since then, there has been a reorganisation within the State BJP with the party high command ‘rehabilitating’ those leaders purged by Mr. Fadnavis.

While both Mr. Tawde and Ms. Munde were made national secretaries last year, Chandrashekhar Bawankule — another OBC leader who was surprisingly dropped in 2019 — is the party’s candidate in the upcoming MLC elections. Dropping Mr. Bawankule, an important BJP leader in the Vidarbha region, had proved costly for the party as it lost no less than 12 seats in the 2019 Assembly poll and led to the Congress’ supremacy in the region.

Rehabilitating leaders

According to observers, Mr. Tawde’s elevation, seen in the context of rehabilitation of Mr. Fadnavis’ political rivals, signals that the latter’s candidacy for the Chief Minister’s post in the 2024 Assembly election is by no means certain nor is it to be taken for granted.

It would be a mistake to think that Mr. Tawde’s new responsibilities would make him more active in national politics while leaving the path clear for Mr. Fadnavis in Maharashtra, says an experienced election watcher.

Furthermore, as a prominent Maratha face in the BJP, Mr. Tawde’s elevation can only be advantageous for his party in Maharashtra where the Maratha community is dominant and where the Maratha reservation issue continues to vex the ruling tripartite ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ Government, opines Mr. Bhavsar.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 11:33:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/what-vinod-tawdes-elevation-means-for-bjp-in-maharashtra/article37636250.ece

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