Shelar is BJP’s key to succeed in BMC election
He is likely to be succeeded by either Chandrashekhar Bawankule who is a member of the legislative council or Sanjay Kute, the MLA from Jalgaon
Mumbai Ashish Shelar, 49, BJP legislator from Bandra West and Shiv Sena’s bete noire, is likely to take over as the BJP’s Mumbai unit chief. Shelar, who has been kept out of the cabinet, may be given this key position ahead of the BMC elections. The Shiv Sena has retained control of India’s richest civic body since 1985. It’s crucial for BJP’s continued success in Maharashtra to wrest BMC from the Sena, and they think Shelar is the man for the job.
Mangal Prabhat Lodha, the current BJP chief in the city was inducted in the Cabinet earlier this week, as was the party’s Maharashtra unit head Chandrakant Patil. He is likely to be succeeded by either Chandrashekhar Bawankule who is a member of the legislative council or Sanjay Kute, the MLA from Jalgaon.
Sources in the party say that Ashish Shelar was also considered for the post of the state unit chief but the central leadership wants 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 for it. 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 in 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 which were fought under Shelar’s leadership. That performance of the BJP in fact was the inflection point for the Sena, then in alliance with the BJP. Despite being partners in the state government, BJP and Sena had gone all out to attack one another on the issues of Hindutva and development. Shelar, along with the then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had been at the forefront of the ‘tirade’ against the Sena during that BMC election campaign.
“He’s a leader who understands the issues of Mumbai, has a vast network of party workers and has acceptability among various communities. Some may see this as a demotion for Shelar as he has been restricted to the city, but the party needs him the most at this time for the BMC elections and impressed this upon him during his meeting in Delhi recently with state leaders,” revealed a senior BJP leader in the state.
Two other names who were also considered for the job are Atul Bhatkhalkar and Manoj Kotak. When asked about the new responsibility expected to be given to him, Shelar said, “I am a party volunteer from my heart and believe in working on any mission that the party may allocate to me.”
As it is in Mumbai, the party is also looking for a replacement for Chandrakant Patil. “The party leadership is keen on appointing an OBC leader to head the state ahead of the local body polls and the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Chandrashekhar Bawankule is expected to be the party’s pick,” said the senior leader. “We have the Maratha support intact thanks to the reservation given to them by the previous Fadnavis government. Secondly, we had Maratha leaders at the helm of affairs at the state unit for two consecutive terms. The OBC vote bank has been unsettled after their reservation was struck down by the court last year.The party wants to concentrate on them ahead of the 2024 polls,” said the leader who is a former minister.