Caste politics to decide next Maharashtra CM?

  • Dharmendra Jore, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 22, 2014 18:17 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) top brass has maintained that factors such as religion, caste and creed had no impact on the assembly polls results, which were declared on Sunday. But some in the party are asking whether a coalition government, which will have members of different castes, will impact the selection of the CM candidate?

The speculations are on the rise especially as state unit president Devendra Fadnavis has emerged as the party’s first choice for the top job.

If the BJP leadership selects him, Fadnavis will become the state’s second Brahmin chief minister. The first was Manohar Joshi (1995-1999).

However, with a possibility of coalition government, various caste groups in the BJP are lobbying for the top job, saying that a person running an alliance should be able to the support of two major communities in the state — Marathas and OBCs.

The communities account for about 70% population of the state and the BJP cannot ignore them if it wants to strengthen its base in Maharashtra. They pointed out that the Maratha community voted for Congress-NCP because of the reservation in government jobs and education.

Opposition leader in the council, Vinod Tawde, a Maratha, has been lobbying hard for the CM’s post. His supporters claim that he will be able to win the community over in the long term. He also enjoys good rapport with NCP leaders, who are willing to support the government from outside.

The OBCs in the BJP, however, are staking claim on the CM’s job. Pankaja Munde, after replacing her father Gopinath Munde as the party OBC’s face, has been playing the caste card ever since the poll campaign started.

Her supporters are demanding the post for her at rallies attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.

Another OBC leader, Eknath Khadse, has also made his ambitions clear. He is Opposition leader in the Assembly and dominates north Maharashtra politics. Other than Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Prakash Javdekar, both Brahmins, another upper caste Sudhir Mungantiwar is also in the race for the CM’s post. Confident of his appointment, Fadnavis’ supporters said Manohar Joshi ran the coalition government successfully.

His opponents, however, claim the Sena-BJP government had to replace Joshi with Narayan Rane, a Maratha, after suffering defeat in Lok Sabha elections in 1998.

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