Mumbai: Infighting in the state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now out in public. Allegations against the Public Works Department (PWD) by Prashant Bamb, a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and a confidant of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, has led to suggestions that the real target of the accusations is PWD minister Chandrakant Patil. Mr Patil is number two in Mr Fadnavis’ ministry and among the strongest contenders for the CM’s post. Those in the political circle believe that Mr Bamb’s allegations on the PWD is an attempt to dent Mr Patil’s growing clout.
Mr Bamb is a two-term MLA from Marathwada and one of the few MLAs known for his fiery speeches in the Assembly and outside. On Monday, alleging corruption in the PWD, Mr Bamb had called the earlier Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government better than the current one. Mr Bamb said many officers in PWD are indulging in corruption. “Many tenders being passed under the norm of minor repairs are actually matters of serious concern. We can raise serious questions over financial irregularities in it,” Mr Bamb had said.
While Mr Bamb has already clarified that his allegations have nothing to do with Mr Patil and the buck stops with officers of the PWD, his remarks are being seen as an attack on the senior minister.
Mr Patil (65) and Mr Fadnavis (46) both have Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backgrounds and Mr Patil was much higher up in the RSS hierarchy than Mr Fadnavis was. At the same time, after Eknath Khadse’s resignation from the state Cabinet over corruption allegations, Mr Patil emerged as the government’s ‘crisis manager’. In the recent farmers’ strike crisis, when Mr Fadnavis failed to placate agitating farmers, Mr Patil was given the charge to handle the problem. Mr Patil rose to the occasion by consulting all stakeholders and systematically handling the tense situation.
In addition to this, Mr Patil, who was responsible for the western Maharashtra region in the recent zilla parishad elections, successfully managed to win the Kolhapur, Sangli and Solapur zilla parishads. The victory was significant for BJP as these districts were earlier bastions of Sharad Pawar’s NCP. The increasing clout of Mr Patil generated a buzz about him being the strongest contender for the top job in the state.
Political observers believe that this could have disturbed a few other leaders in the party and that may have resulted in the allegations made against Mr Patil’s department. Though Mr Bamb has clarified that his allegations have nothing to do with Mr Patil, the political circle of the state is discussing his allegations as an attempt to damage Mr Patil’s growing eminence.