Laxman Jagtap and Mahesh Landge
THE industrial city of Pimpri-Chinchwad seems set to get its first ministerial berth in the state cabinet with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis likely to expand his cabinet soon after obtaining a green signal from the Prime Minister last week. BJP sources said that the cabinet expansion is likely to take place next month after the induction of Congress leader Narayan Rane into the party fold.
BJP MLAs Laxman Jagtap and Mahesh Landge are the two top contenders from Pimpri-Chinchwad for a ministerial berth, especially after the party’s resounding victory in PCMC elections where it ended the three-decade old reign of the NCP-Congress.
In fact, the Landge camp has made no secret of the MLA’s keenness to make it to the state cabinet. Landge, a wrestler, is hoping he will get the sports ministry. The CM has apparently twice asked Landge to submit his biodata. “However, Maheshdada could not submit the biodata as our mother has been hospitalised and has undergone a surgery,” said Kartik Landge, the younger brother of the MLA. Landge is expected to meet the CM this week.
Kartik said that since the CM has sought the biodata, it is clear that he wants Mahesh to become the minister. “We have learnt that the cabinet expansion will take place before September 6 after Rane joins the party,” said Kartik.
The Jagtap camp, on the other hand, is keeping its cards close to its chest and not revealing what has transpired between the MLA and the CM in the past few days. Jagtap has apparently met the CM and has been asked about his preference. “Whatever responsibility the party gives, Jagtap will have no problem in shouldering it. It is entirely the CM and the party’s prerogative,” said BJP general secretary Sarang Kamtekar, who belongs to the Jagtap camp. Jagtap is also president of Pimpri-Chinchwad unit of the BJP.
Jagtap and Landge, who are the architects of BJP’s crushing victory in Pimpri-Chinchwad, considered the bastion of Pawars, however, do not see eye to eye. After the victory in PCMC elections, the CM had to do the balancing act while allocating key offices of the civic body to the supporters of the MLAs. While a Landge supporter became a mayor, a Jagtap supporter was appointed the standing committee chairperson. Both have equal representation in the form of their supporters on the civic standing panel.
BJP leaders said that even while allocating the ministerial portfolio, the CM will have to ensure if one of them is picked, the other gets chairmanship of some state-run corporation or heads a state committee. “Otherwise, it is going to widen the rift in the BJP rank and file in Pimpri-Chinchwad, which is already divided into two camps… The CM might play safe and pick Maval MLA Bala Bhege to avoid antagonising either Landge or Jagtap,” said a BJP leader.
BJP general secretary Babu Nair said that if one of the two gets the ministry, it will be for the first time that a leader from Pimpri-Chinchwad will be part of the state cabinet. “Congress leader Ramkrishna More was the state education minister and led the party in Pimpri-Chinchwad, but he was a resident of Pune City. Therefore, if either Jagtap or Landge becomes a minister, it will be the first honour for the city,” said Nair.