R R Patil has become the first home minister to be appointed the guardian minister of the Naxalite-affected district of Gadchiroli in eastern Vidarbha.
The minister had volunteered to be the guardian minister of the underdeveloped Naxalite-affected Gadchiroli district because Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena legislators had dared him to do so in the winter session of the State Legislature.
All these years, ministers with insignificant portfolios were given charge of the district.
Patil, who heads anti-naxal policing as home minister, will now be able push for the progress of Gadchiroli because the guardian minister leads the district plan and development committee that comprises elected representatives and bureaucrats. The committee decides on allocation of funds for projects in the district.
Patil also ensured that his junior minister Ramesh Bagwe got to lead neighbouring Chandrapur district, which is equally sensitive in view of the Maoist menace.
Last year, 53 policepersons died fighting the various Naxalite groups in the two districts.
Patil said he was serious about the assignment. “I will work sincerely to develop the district.” Bagwe was unreachable.
BJP legislator from Ballarpur in Chandrapur, Sudhir Mungantiwar, who was most critical of Patil during the session, said: “Patil has, yet again, shown his sensitive side. No other minister would have volunteered for this post.” Mungantiwar said the BJP-Sena would wholeheartedly support Patil.
Mungantiwar had written to Patil asking him share Chandrapur’s responsibility as well.
However, a source in Mantralaya said requesting anonymity that Patil was willing to take up that job as well but since Chandrapur was in the Congress quota (the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have a sharing formula for guardian ministers), a Congressman Bagwe got Chandrapur.”
The Opposition had challenged Patil to head Gadchiroli during a debate on growing Naxalite violence in eastern Vidarbha’s tribal districts and its adverse impact on development work there.