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Race for Maharashtra BJP state president hots up

The name of Sujit Singh Thakur, general secretary of the party, leads the race, while the names of Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar and leader Raghunath Kulkarni are also in the fray for the post

As the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) constitution does not allow one person to hold two posts, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is also the state president of the party, is set to resign from the latter post.

Thakur impressed many in Delhi, with his able coordination of Pankaja Munde-Palwe’s Sangharsh Yatra
Thakur impressed many in Delhi, with his able coordination of Pankaja Munde-Palwe’s Sangharsh Yatra

The one name that is leading the race for this position is Sujit Singh Thakur, who is currently the general secretary of the party that staked claim to the chair of chief minister of Maharashtra for the first time in the four decades of its existence.

Thakur recently impressed many in Delhi, with his able coordination of Pankaja Munde-Palwe’s Sangharsh Yatra, which also made her a pan-Maharashtra leader from a mere MLA from Beed.

As per a senior BJP leader, Thakur, who comes from Osmanabad district in the Marathwada region, has mostly been a behind-the-stage person and has a support base in Marathwada. It is also said that Thakur has the blessing of Fadnavis.

Earlier the name of Chandrakant Patil was doing the rounds for the post of state president, but he was accommodated in the cabinet of Fadnavis and has been given important portfolios, so his name is out of the race. The other two names that are still in the race are that of Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar and Raghunath Kulkarni.

It was Shelar who had suggested, even before the alliance with Shiv Sena broke, that BJP should contest some 20 seats in Mumbai out of the total 36. When the results were out, the BJP had won 15 seats in the city, the highest. However, his corporate approach is something that many in the party think is a hurdle for his promotion from city chief to state chief.

There were also talks that Shelar will be given a ministry, but already with three ministers from Mumbai, (Vinod Tawde, Vidya Thakur and Prakash Mehta), it will be a bit difficult for Fadnavis to accommodate him right now. Another name being discussed is that of Kulkarni, who was the general secretary (organisation) of the party, but was replaced after a tiff with Gopinath Munde, by another RSS man, Ravindra Bhusari.

Kulkarni comes from the Sangh and has played a major role in the organisation during his tenure. Thakur, though, senior leaders say, has the backing of the RSS. Senior Sangh functionaries associated with the party have, in fact, hinted to top leaders that Thakur will mostly take the coveted chair of state president.

“There are only minor things that go against Thakur. He has the support of many within the party and the Sangh,” said a senior party functionary. Thakur did not hesitate to express his desire. “I am ready to take the responsibility of any post that the party gives me,” he said.

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