Discontent is seething in the Maharashtra unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party for its choice of candidates for the elections of the Maharashtra Legislative Council. Elections to all the 10 seats were held unopposed this week. The BJP has invited the wrath of its rank and file in the state by giving nominations to two persons, Praveen Darekar and R.N. Singh, who had changed loyalties from the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) and the Congress, respectively, to the BJP, and have been charged of corruption. While the BJP can nominate five persons for the unopposed elections, seven persons had filed nominations in the state. Two members withdrew their membership towards the end of the week, paving way for the unopposed polls. But discontent in the party continues.
“There are so many loyal activists and leaders of the party, who have given years for building the party. What is the point of giving tickets to outsiders by sidelining the loyalists? At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is talking of clean government, the BJP in Maharashtra is giving tickets to two tainted politicians who were not even part of the party cadre originally. What is wrong in asking that your house should be cleaned up? Is this rebellion?” asked Vivekanand Gupta, secretary, Mumbai unit of the BJP.
“There is definitely unrest and discontent within the party. The sentiments are very strong,” said another senior leader who did not wish to be named. Many senior and deserving candidates have been sidelined, another party leader said. There were rumours that some of the senior leaders would be pacified by giving them the status of Ministers of State and work responsibility. This could not be confirmed from government or party sources.
This week, the party declared the names of the following candidates—Praveen Darekar, R.N. Singh, Prasad Lad, Vinayak Mete, Sadabhau Khot and party general secretary Sujitsingh Thakur. Party member Manoj Kotak too filed nomination as an independent candidate. The two other smaller allies who filed their nominations were Shiv Sangram’s Vinayak Mete and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana’s Sadabhau Khot. These smaller allies also expect to be accommodated in the Cabinet reshuffle which is likely to happen this month.
There has been a barrage of opposition to the nomination of Praveen Darekar and R.N. Singh. While R.N. Singh jumped from the Congress to the BJP, Praveen Darekar came from the MNS. Many BJP leaders had in the past levelled allegations of corruption against Darekar in a co-operative bank. R.N. Singh is believed to be Congress leader Kripashankar Singh’s close confidant. Kripashankar Singh faces a probe for the alleged accumulation of disproportionate assets.
“There is an FIR against Praveen Darekar. He has been accused of siphoning off Rs 6 crore from Mumbai Bank. He is also accused of forging papers for the registration of a credit society. In the past, BJP leaders such as Kirit Somaiyya and Vinod Tawde have written to the government seeking action against him,” Vivekanand Gupta alleged.
When contacted, this newspaper was told that Kirit Somaiyya did not wish to speak on the matter currently.
Darekar has denied all allegations and has said that the FIR against him had been quashed, but Gupta called the claim concocted and misleading. When asked, Darekar told this newspaper, “I do not wish to say anything about these allegations. We are in the process of filing a defamation suit against Vivekanand Gupta.”
Gupta, however, is keeping up his attack on the duo. “Look at R.N. Singh. He is 72 years old and mired in corruption charges. Generally, only respected people are nominated to the Upper House. They are people of eminent stature, academicians or persons who excel in their work. But with these nominations of corrupt people, the stature of the election itself has been lowered,” he said.
Leaders close to both Darekar and R.N. Singh denied all allegations and claimed that these were politically motivated.
BJP members said that the party will have to take note of the discontent. “The party will have to hold a meeting and address this unrest. The next step completely depends on the party,” a senior BJP leader said. It is being claimed that both these candidates were given nominations at the behest of Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar, who has next year’s Mumbai Municipal Corporation elections in mind.
Meanwhile, after two candidates, Prasad Lad and Manoj Kotak withdrew their nominations towards the end of the week, the way was paved for the unopposed elections for 10 seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council. Accordingly, Congress’ Narayan Rane, NCP’s Dhananjay Munde and Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, Shiv Sena’s Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote, BJP’s Sujitsingh Thakur, R.N. Singh and Praveen Darekar, and Sadabhau Khot and Vinayak Mete were elected unopposed. The formal announcement for the same is likely to be made on 12 June.
Party functionaries are confident that BJP president Amit Shah will take necessary action to ensure that the good name of the party in Maharashtra is maintained. The state leaders spoken to were unanimous in their confidence that Prime Minister Modi wanted a corruption free party. They expect strong action in the Maharashtra matter from the top leadership of the BJP.