MUMBAI: By denying party nominations to Vinod Tawde, Eknath Khadse, Prakash Mehta and Raj Purohit for the assembly elections, the
has brought the curtain down on the Pramod Mahajan-Gopinath Munde era which saw the rise of the quartet in the 1990s, said political analysts.
Tawde and Khadse came into their own in 1995 when the BJP teamed up with the Shiv Sena to form the saffron government in the state. Ditto with Mehta and Purohit. Mehta was inducted in the Manohar Joshi regime to win over the Gujarati community. Kirit Somaiya too played a key role in consolidating the BJP’s base among the city’s traders, said a party worker from Mulund. Somaiya was denied the Lok Sabha nomination from Mumbai North-East earlier this year.
When the Sena-BJP lost the 1999 state elections, Khadse and Tawde joined Munde to do some brilliant sabre-rattling on the floor of the state legislature and keep the ruling Congress-NCP combine on a tight leash, said Vidhan Bhavan observers.
“The BJP bigwigs have, in one fell swoop, cut to size an entire team of functionaries who helped the party strike deep roots in Mumbai in the 1990s,” said a former party MLA. Eknath Khadse, he added, has for long been the BJP’s poster boy in northern Maharashtra.
The CM is said to be deeply embarrassed by the turn of events as he, sources close to him said, tried to persuade the BJP central Parliamentary board to take a lenient stand on the issue, but apparently to no avail.
Tawde’s aggressive style of functioning and Mehta’s alleged role in the allotment of a Tardeo slum project, which kicked up an unsavoury row, have cost them their seats, it is learnt.
The party has turned the quartet into an example to be held up before legislators to keep them under control, sources said.
The BJP high command on Friday released the fourth — and final — list of Maharashtra poll candidates without the names of the four party seniors. In keeping with the protocol, Tawde, being a cabinet minister, should have made it to the very first list, sources added.
“Tawde is a hard nut to crack. He has a mind of his own and wouldn’t let anyone get into his hair. His aggressive style of functioning didn’t go down well with the party bosses in New Delhi,” said a state BJP functionary.
Fadnavis had deputed a senior BJP minister to make Tawde see reason even as the party high command kept close tabs on the latter’s functioning, he said, adding, “But Tawde made light of the senior minister’s warning.”
A section in the city BJP thinks that the party high command has been unduly harsh on the foursome.
“We are told that Mehta has been denied a ticket because of several irregularities in the Tardeo slum project. But look at the track record of many of the defectors who have joined the BJP. Most of them face cases of corruption, and they want immunity from the law and a seat in the state assembly as well,” said a former party MLA.