NAGPUR, February 6: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nitin Gadkari may be the guardian minister of Nagpur district, but his party prefers to keep him in charge of neighbouring Wardha district where BJP nominee Vijay Mude faces the formidable Datta Meghe of the Congress in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections to be held on February 22 next.
Political circles are in a tizzy over the fact that Gadkari has not been put in charge of the BJP's election affairs in Nagpur where he enjoys huge clout as guardian minister. The BJP leadership has gone a step further by asking minister of state for forests and labour Vinod Gudadhe-Patil, a known Gadkari baiter, to ensure party nominee Ramesh Mantri's victory from Nagpur.
According to reliable party sources, the leadership has deliberately made these "cross-postings" to prevent the possibility of an internal sabotage.
Gadkari is known to enjoy a good personal equation with Meghe, who was believed to be in the forefront of an attempt to split the Congress andform a coalition government with the BJP at the Centre before the dissolution of the tenth Lok Sabha. According to highly reliable sources, it was Gadkari who rushed to the capital during the period and persuaded Meghe to grant his signature to form a BJP government at the Centre.
A section of the BJP leadership were afraid that Gadkari would lend clandestine support to Meghe, thereby weakening the BJP's own nominee, Mude.Already a faction in the BJP, opposed to Gadkari, believed that he hadhelped his old friend Meghe when the latter had contested on a Lok Sabhaticket from Nagpur in 1991 and from Ramtek in 1996. The BJP leadership,therefore, took a clever step and asked Gadkari himself to see to it that Mude gets re-elected from the Wardha parliamentary constituency this time.
In Nagpur, too, the leadership used the same trick by asking Vinod Gudadhe-Patil to work for Mantri whose candidature he had earlier opposed and asserted that Banwarilal Purohit had only electoral merit in the pro-Hindu party forthe Nagpur seat in the coming elections. In both the cases, Gadkari and Gudadhe-Patil have no choice, but to work wholeheartedly for the party nominees placed under their care.
Similar precautions have also been taken by the leadership in Bhandara and Chandrapur in the region. In Bhandara, Congress nominee Praful Patel is known to be close to senior BJP leader and guardian minister for Bhandara district Mahadeorao Shivankar. It is widely believed in political circles here that Patel managed to win the Bhandara Lok Sabha seat in 1996 election mainly through the clandestine support extended by Shivankar. Patel had succeeded in retaining the seat only due to a huge lead he received in Amgaon assembly segment in the constituency, thanks to Shivankar, who represents the constituency in the state assembly. Surprisingly, barring Amgaon assembly segment, the BJP nominee, Rasm Aswale, secured more votes than Patel in other five assembly segments.
In view of this, Shivankar has now been entrusted with theresponsibility of getting the BJP nominee in Bhandara, Narayandas Saraf, elected. A failure in the task would only jeopardise Shivankar's ministerial position.
In neighbouring Chandrapur, Congress candidate Naresh Pugalia is on friendly terms with Shobhatai Phadnavis, who is the guardian minister for the district. Here too, it is believed that Phadnavis received clandestine support from Pugalia when she contested from Mul in Chandrapur district in 1985, 1990 and 1995.
Pugalia had ensured the defeat of his arch Congress rival, WamanraoGaddamwar, through his support to Phadnavis. Obviously, the BJP leadership is worried that Phadnavis may return the favour by giving Pugalia tacit support in his fight against pro-Hindu party incumbent MP Hansraj Aher. The leadership has therefore asked Phadnavis to ensure Aher's success.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.