Despite his unwillingness to join the Central government and his keenness to lead the state BJP unit in the approaching state assembly polls, senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde was inducted into the union cabinet yesterday.
Munde was among the seven heavyweights from the state including former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari who have been asked to occupy berths in the Narendra Modi-led government.
Actor-turned-politician Smriti Irani, a resident of Mumbai, has also been inducted into the cabinet. While Gadkari was the fifth cabinet minister to be sworn in, Munde was the ninth to appear.
Anant Geete of Shiv Sena, with a cabinet rank, is also a resident of Maharashtra, as are ministers of state Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar and Raosaheb Danve, all from the BJP.
The Sena, which had expected at least three berths, had to make do with just one. With Munde’s inclusion, sources in the BJP say that the party’s state unit chief Devendra Fadnavis will be formally anointed as the party’s leader for the state assembly polls, scheduled for October this year.
According to sources, Munde tried to convince the central unit of the party to not include him in the union cabinet, so he could be free to take over the reins of the party for the Assembly elections. But, keeping in mind Nitin Gadkari’s stiff opposition to Munde, the decision to appoint Fadnavis was taken.
Party veterans Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde have the weight of experience on their side, both having served as members of the Shiv Sena-BJP government that was in power from 1995 to 1999. While Munde was deputy chief minister in charge of home and energy departments, Gadkari was PWD minister.
He left behind a rich legacy, with 55 flyovers being in built Mumbai in his tenure and the construction of the Mumbai-Pune expressway being flagged off. Gadkari, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Nagpur in the recently concluded general elections, enjoys clout and a vast network in the Vidarbha region. Munde, the OBC face of the party, is considered a leader of the masses and represents Beed in Lok Sabha, to which he was re-elected.
According to political sources, the Shiv Sena is likely to be asked to nominate one of its leaders for appointment as minister of state, in the next cabinet reshuffle. While RPI leader and Sena ally Ramdas Athawale is keen on joining the union cabinet, the BJP has made it clear that unless the Shiv Sena fields him as a candidate, his chances are slim.
Mumbai resident Piyush Goyal, who so far served as the party’s treasurer, seems to have reaped the reward for his family’s loyalty to and long-standing association with the party. His father, late Vedprakash Goyal was also treasurer to the party and member of the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government.
His mother Chandrakanta Goyal was MLA and represented Matunga in the assembly. Prakash Javadekar, a Pune resident and the party’s spokesman, has also been rewarded for the crucial role that he played in bringing about the party’s alliance with the Chandrababu Naidu-led Telegu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh.