Maharashtra BJP keeps caste factor in mind to name state party officials

Bawankule belongs to the OBC Teli community, which has a sizable population in some pockets of Maharashtra. while Shelar is a Maratha by caste.
Maharashtra state party chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule. (Photo | Twitter)
Maharashtra state party chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule. (Photo | Twitter)

MUMBAI: Caste arithmetic is the centre of the BJP’s organizational changes in Maharashtra. On Friday, the party appointed Chandrashekhar Bawankule as the state party chief, while MLA Ashish Shelar was named the new chief of the Mumbai unit.

Party chief JP Nadda issued a note announcing the appointments. Bawankule belongs to the OBC Teli community, which has a sizable population in some pockets of Maharashtra. while Shelar is a Maratha by caste.

BJP sources expressed surprise over the names chosen for the top posts. The new office-bearers were appointed after Mangal Prabhat Lodha, the outgoing president of the Mumbai BJP unit, and Chandrakant Patil, the exiting state party chief, were inducted as ministers in the Shinde-Fadnavis government.

“It was natural for the party leadership to appoint leaders from within the party. However, the names that were doing the rounds for the two posts are vastly different from the ones that have been finally chosen. This is yet another shock to us after Devendra Fadnavis was relegated to the number two post as the deputy chief minister in the Eknath Shinde-led government,” said a senior BJP leader.

Shelar’s new charge has come for the third time. “Shelar was strongly expecting a cabinet berth in the new government or appointment as the Maharashtra BJP unit president. He has led the party unit twice in Mumbai and did a remarkable job by ensuring wins. But now, the BJP is in power again, and he still has been asked to take up the old post that he has already held. In the given circumstances, it would appear that he has not really moved up the ladder,” said a person close to Shelar.

Another senior BJP leader also expressed surprise about Bawankule’s appointment. “In the 2019 assembly polls, Bawankule was denied the ticket despite his bright prospects. The leadership’s decision sent out a wrong message, leading to the Teli community turning against the BJP and the party losing a dozen seats in Vidarbha,” said another party source, adding that to repair the damage, Bawankule was given the MLC ticket and has now been made the party state president.

“However, he is not the charismatic leader who can influence voters across the state. This decision seems to be a compromise leader,” said the source.

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