Ashish Shelar named BJP’s Mumbai chief ahead of BMC elections
Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar’s appointment comes at a time when the BJP has set its eyes on the BMC that it hopes to snatch from the Shiv Sena that has held control of the civic body since 1985
MUMBAI: Bharatiya Janata Party president JP Nadda on Friday appointed Bandra MLA Ashish Shelar as the party’s Mumbai unit chief and MLC Chandrashekar Bawankule as Maharashtra BJP president. Shelar’s appointment to head the city unit of the party is considered significant and the tussle between BJP and Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena is expected to intensify further during the election to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation later this year. BJP general secretary Arun Singh announced the appointments in Delhi.
Ashish Shelar, 49, BJP legislator from Bandra West, succeeds Mumbadevi MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha who was inducted into the cabinet early this week. Bawankule will take over from Chandrakant Patil, who was inducted into the council of ministers on Tuesday. Shelar is a two-term MLA from Bandra and served as school education and sports minister for a short duration in the Fadnavis government in 2019.
Shelar, who has been kept out of the cabinet, served as Mumbai BJP chief for seven consecutive years since 2013. His appointment has come in the run-up to the BMC elections expected to be held later this year or early next year as the BJP seeks to wrest the civic body from Sena. The Shiv Sena has retained control of India’s richest civic body since 1985.
BJP leaders said Ashish Shelar was also considered for the post of the state unit chief but the central leadership wanted him to be the city unit chief given how crucial BMC is to the party at this stage.
“When the party is on a spree to crush the Sena in every possible way, winning the BMC becomes most important. There could not be a more eligible leader to lead the Mumbai unit than Shelar. He has already been the Mumbai unit chief for two terms (2013-2019) and his contribution to the rise of the party in the city is indisputable,” said a senior BJP leader.
The BJP was only two seats behind the Sena in the BMC polls in 2017 that were fought under Shelar’s leadership and was considered the inflection point for the Sena, then in alliance with the BJP. Despite being partners in the state government, BJP and Sena went all out to attack one another on the issues of Hindutva and development. Shelar, along with then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, were at the forefront of the ‘tirade’ against the Sena during that BMC election campaign.
By appointing Bawankule to head the party’s state unit, BJP has tried to woo the OBCs, its voter base, ahead of the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in 2024. “We have the Maratha support intact thanks to the reservation given to them by the previous Fadnavis government. Secondly, we had Maratha leaders (Raosaheb Danve and Chandrakant Patil) at the helm of affairs at the state unit for two consecutive terms. The OBC vote bank has been unsettled after its reservation was struck down by the court last year. The party wants to concentrate on them ahead of the 2024 polls,” said a former minister.