BJP shocker: Dhangar surgeon gets Rajya Sabha nomination

The selection of Dr Vikas Mahatme, an ophthalmologist from Nagpur, has raised many eyebrows and sources say it’s a move to gain brownie points with his community

Nobody expected this name to be announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as one of its candidates for the biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha. The ruling party at the state took all by surprise when it nominated an eye surgeon from Nagpur.

Dr Vikas Mahatme receiving Padma Shri from the then President Pratibha Patil
Dr Vikas Mahatme receiving Padma Shri from the then President Pratibha Patil

Dr Vikas Mahatme, a Padma Shri awardee ophthalmologist, was reportedly shortlisted not because of his services in the medical field, but because of his politically influential community, of which he is also a noted and revered leader.

The strong Dhangar community that has 1.23 crore people residing in Maharashtra is second only to the Maratha-Kunbi group in terms of population. They have been demanding for a scheduled tribe (ST) status, which the BJP had promised to give before the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in 2014. The status will naturally give them benefits in jobs, education and politics.

Local leaders argue that the community gets benefits from the Centre but they are deprived, because of a typographical error and that the ST status was granted to them by the Constitution. The community holds sway in many constituencies of the state and so the BJP-led government was in limbo about granting the status after the Centre and the court struck down the request, citing lack of valid documents.

Dr Mahatme has led several protests through Dhangar Samaj Action Committee for his community. He has been critical of the BJP for not fulfilling its electoral promise. This move definitely comes as a shocker not just to other political parties but also to BJP’s ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksh leader Mahadev Jankar.

Jankar’s party has been BJP’s ally since 2014 but now he wants a bigger share in power — a cabinet berth. The BJP is apparently fed up with his shenanigans and this can be considered as a direct tactic to get rid of him. Jankar, who was made a legislature from BJP’s quota, has now boycotted all meetings that are convened by CM Devendra Fadnavis, and talks ill of the government.

Fadnavis and Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari back Dr Mahatme’s candidature. He will file his papers today, on the birth anniversary of the revered figure of the Dhangar community, Ahalyabai Holkar. The place for filing nomination is also interesting: Chondhi, the birthplace of Holkar. Jankar’s party will not attend this government programme, but instead hold its own event at Azad Maidan on the same day.

Other names
Two of three nominations from the state have gone to Union power minister Piyush Goyal and the party’s vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who retires from the upper house, has been given a candidature from Andhra Pradesh.

Who is Dr Mahatme?
Dr Mahatme is an eye surgeon of repute in the medical fraternity, who operates from his private hospital in Nagpur. He runs an eye bank, which caters to all sections of the society. He was awarded a Padma Shri in 2010 for his medical services and social work. Dr Mahatme has been fighting for his community’s cause for long and even led a massive protest against the BJP govt over the reservation issue.

Darekar gets MLC ticket
The BJP has nominated Pravin Darekar for the legislative council, shocking many of its loyalists. Darekar was one of the 13 MLAs of the Raj Thackeray-led party.

In March 2015, Mumbai BJP secretary Vivekanand Gupta had filed an FIR against him accusing him of embezzlement of R123 crore in Mumbai District Central Co-operative Bank Ltd.

“The Economic Offence Wing is investigating the FIR. It is sad that such a person has been given a ticket. Party-with-a-difference image has been seriously dented,” said Gupta.

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