Make me Mumbai BJP president or give ministry: Raj Purohit
Controversial Colaba MLA Raj Purohit wants to lead BJP in BMC polls or be made a minister in the state cabinet. In July, he was allegedly caught on tape badmouthing PM Modi, party president Amit Shah
The BMC polls may still be a few months away, but at least one BJP leader has put his hand up and said he wants to lead what will likely be the party’s first solo push for power in the country’s richest civic body.
Controversial Colaba MLA Raj Purohit — who was only in July in the eye of a storm after he was caught on tape allegedly badmouthing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party president Amit Shah and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – on Thursday told mid-day that he was willing to take the leadership mantle ahead of the BMC polls. He added that if that does not happen, he should be made a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government, as he is a “senior MLA.”
The last two weeks have seen daily spam messages being sent to party leaders asking them to replace BJP city unit president Ashish Shelar with Purohit
The last two weeks have seen daily spam messages being sent to the party’s top leadership exhorting them to replace BJP city unit president Ashish Shelar with Purohit.
Spam messages are being sent to the party’s leadership exhorting them to replace BJP city unit president Ashish Shelar (L) with Raj Purohit (R)
While Purohit, who was Shelar’s predecessor, claimed he had nothing to do with the messages, he nonetheless expressed willingness to take over the reins.
The messages — addressed to Modi, Shah, state president Raosaheb Danve Patil, and other top leaders – say making Purohit the Mumbai president will increase the party’s likelihood in the BMC elections. The messages also urge party workers to spread the same on social media.
“I haven’t asked people to send out messages in my support, but seeing my work while I was the president, people must have sent these messages willingly,” Purohit told mid-day. “It may not only be BJP members, but even well wishers. Though it’s not in my hands, I am willing to serve the tenure if given the chance.”
Senior party leaders and even incumbent Shelar refused to comment on the issue, saying it was up to the seniors to decide who will lead the party in the BMC polls.
“I haven’t seen the messages yet, so it wouldn’t be right on my part to comment,” said Danve. “However, we haven’t yet started the procedure to appoint a new president for BJP Mumbai. When the procedure begins, this topic will be discussed.”
Shelar said, “It is the party high command that will decide who will be the next president and we will follow whatever they decide.”
Another senior leader aware of the messages said such messages do not serve any purpose, and would rather damage Purohit’s image further. “Based on such messages, no one is made the president in our party, though Purohit should understand that this will further damage his image and stay away from such things,” said the leader.
Purohit led the BJP in the 2012 BMC elections, where the party won 31 of the 60 seats it contested. He is also credited with creating two-dozens party cells in Mumbai and is known for keeping party workers happy. The five-term was the minister of state for housing and labour in the previous saffron government in the state.
In June, tapes ostensibly from an unaired sting operation surfaced, with Purohit ranting against the party’s national leadership and the RSS. Besides criticising Modi and Shah’s style of functioning, Purohit also spoke about the apparent “injustice” done to him by the Fadnavis government.
“Injustice is being done to me,” he was seen telling in the tapes. “I am the senior-most party leader after Eknath Khadse (revenue minister). I should have been a minister but have been asked to wait because of (BJP MLA Mangal Prabhat) Lodha.”
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He later claimed that the tapes were doctored and that the voice was not his. Purohit is also the same leader who had in 2011 taken off on a college student who had posted a video of a pani-puri vendor urinating into a container kept in his handcart. “No Indian woman, including those from red light areas, will watch such a thing,” he had said, inviting widespread criticism.
Asked by mid-day on Thursday about what he thought on Shelar’s performance, especially since the latter had led the party in two big electoral triumphs, Purohit said, “It was under Shelar’s leadership we contested the state assembly and the Lok Sabha elections and came out victorious. I am a foot soldier and will work what the party leadership will say. But I am a senior MLA and I should be made the minister.”
— with inputs from Ranjeet Jadhav