Reluctant Vijay Wadettiwar takes charge of department
Former Opposition leader has been assured charge of another department eventually; many guardian ministers, however, still unhappy with districts allotted.
Upset over not being given a more important charge, Congress minister Vijay Wadettiwar began work on Friday after being assured that he would get the relief and rehabilitation department in addition to some other subjects that were allocated to him in the recent Cabinet expansion. But the party's woes don't seem to have ended as some other ministers are unhappy over the districts allotted to them for guardianship.
Wadettiwar was missing from the scene since the Cabinet expansion for six days as he skipped Cabinet meetings and a special one-way sitting of the legislature early this week. He went incommunicado and approached party high command with a grievance that the department which had gone to the Congress kitty was kept with Shiv Sena minister Sanjay Rathod, who also heads forest and disaster management departments. He did not go to Mantralaya to take charge of the office. He held a grudge that despite being opposition leader in the previous regime, he was given short shrift with the insignificant OBC, SEBC department which the BJP government had carved out of social justice department last year. The department didn't have a full-fledged staff strength and worked from the parent section until recently.
Wadettiwar told reporters that he demanded the department primarily because it had gone to the Congress in the portfolio sharing by Maha Vikas Aghadi constituents.
"It was given to Congress earlier. I demanded it because it will give me and my party an opportunity to work for the distressed people including farmers. The party high command was convinced and now I'm given the department," he said after taking the charge of office.
State Congress president and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat took initiative in resolving the matter. He went to Delhi to apprise the leaders of the imbroglio. CM Uddhav Thackeray is likely to make an amendment and get the governor's approval.
Battle for Nagpur guardian minister
However, Thorat and other senior Congress leaders have another issue to sort out as a senior MLA and minister from Saoner (Nagpur rural) Sunil Kedar wants his home district for guardianship which has gone to party colleague, energy minister Nitin Raut (Nagpur city). Kedar and two other Congress MLAs Vikas Thakre (also Nagpur city unit president) and Raju Parve (Umred) are lobbying, and have sought party president Sonia Gandhi's appointment to express their grievance.
"Kedar comes from the rural region and has been holding the seat for decades. He was the only MLA to win when the Modi wave had swept Nagpur district in 2014. In 2019, the party won four MLAs in the district, and Kedar has also ensured that the party won handsomely in ZP and panchayat samiti polls. Congress hasn't lost a single seat in his Assembly constituency," said one of the MLAs.
The MLA said Kedar represented the rural area where a guardian minister's role was unlike in a city like Nagpur where municipal corporation played a major role in development work. The Kedar group is trying to get an independent MLA in the district on its side. Kedar had to lobby hard for the ministerial position despite being one of the senior-most Congress MLAs in the state. He is also upset because he was given dairy development and animal husbandry portfolio even as he expected a better deal.
Argument with Thorat
Sources in the Congress said one of Kedar's supporters (first-time MLA from Nagpur city) had a heated argument with Thorat the other day, and cautioned the president that if party affairs continued like this then people would throw tar in the Congress leaders' faces. This was in response to Thorat's observation that a group of Congress workers in Vidarbha had thrown ink in the face of a very senior leader, who is now party's minister. Sources said the issue won't die easily and continue to intensity factionalism in Nagpur district where the party has performed much better after many years.
A sulking Kedar has shied away from celebrating the ZP victory and not issued any statement in the press ever since he was made in-charge of Wardha district. He wasn't available for comment when contacted through his staff.
Vikas Thakre. Pic/Twitter
A junior minister for home, Satej Patil is also vying for Kolhapur district's guardianship. Thorat has refused to parent Kolhapur even after CM Uddhav Thackeray has given him the charge. Thorat wants one of party colleagues appointed in his place as he doesn't want to deny others good positions.
Sources said Thorat got Kolhapur because there are multiple claimants such as Patil and NCP's Hassan Mushrif. And since the district has gone to the Congress, Patil wouldn't budge from demanding it, said a leader from Kolhapur.
Raju Parve. Pic/Facebook
No. of Assembly seats Cong won in Nagpur district in 2019
Hasan Mushrif. Pic/Twitter
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