BJP leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday came under fire from colleagues at a rally in Beed, brining out in the open fissures in the state unit of the party which was dislodged from power last month and lost long-time ally Shiv Sena.
The rally in Beed district in Marathwada, organised to offer tributes to BJP stalwart the late Gopinath Munde on his birth anniversary, turned into a stage to fire salvos at Fadnavis who has been blamed for the loss of some party leaders in the October 21 assembly polls.
Disgruntled BJP leaders Eknath Khadse and Pankaja Munde, the daughter of Gopinath Munde - both former ministers - targeted Fadnavis at the meeting at Gopinath Gad in Beed, around 350km here, but stopped short of announcing any plans to leave the party.
The first shots were fired by Khadse (67), who was Leader of Opposition in the assembly before the BJP came to power in 2014, but got trumped by Fadnavis (49) when it came to the post of chief minister.
Despite his seniority, Khadse agreed to become a minister under Fadnavis in 2014, but had to make an unceremonious exit from the cabinet two years later over land grab allegations, which the former said, were never proved.
Pankaja Munde remained in the cabinet, but she, too, faced allegations of corruption at the beginning of her tenure and lost the October 21 assembly election from Parli in her home district of Beed.
In the past, Khadse had alleged conspiracy behind the election defeat of his daughter Rohini (from Muktainagar in Jalgaon district) and Pankaja Munde and repeated the charge in the rally.
Khadse said, "There were efforts to ensure Pankaja lost the election. It is my clear opinion that she did not lose the election, but it was planned and executed (by some others in the party)."
"How the sinful thought of defeating the daughter of Gopinath Munde could come into someone's mind? Those who took extreme efforts for the statewide growth of the BJP, are now being ignored."
Khadse, an OBC leader hailing from North Maharashtra, claimed, "A situation is being created so that such people leave the party on their own."
Khadse said he was instrumental in making Fadnavis the president of the BJP state unit after Gopinath Munde's nod. "Even after this, Pankaja, Gopinath Munde's daughter, lost the Assembly election from Parli," he added.
Taunting Fadnavis, Khadse said during the latter's three-day stint as the CM, he sanctioned work on a memorial of Gopinath Munde in Aurangabad, which was pending for five years during his first stint in office.
Addressing the rally, Pankaja Munde (40), who shared strained ties with Fadnavis while in the government, asserted she is not running after any post.
"The media debates and discusses about me quitting the party or mounting pressure on party leadership. This is being deliberately done by 'some' people to ensure that I don't get any particular party post. I would like to make it very clear that I am not even lobbying for any post."
She said a political party needs "rebellious" attitude for its growth and prosperity. "We do not need a party controlled by a handful of people. We need a party which has space for all sorts of opinions and views," he said.
Pankaja Munde, also an OBC leader, did not name anyone but her comments were apparently aimed at Fadnavis, who was seen by some as concentrating all powers in his hands and running the government for five years with the help of a small group of party workers and bureaucrats.
She rubbished rumours of her leaving the party, but made her disappointment clear by announcing that she will no longer be a part of the state BJP's core team.
Pankaja Munde said the BJP was free to decide on her continuance in the party.
She has been organising the annual event for last five years but the rally had generated a lot of interest amid speculation that she was leaving the BJP after her shock poll defeat.
Pankaja Munde recently wrote on Facebook that in the changed political scenario there was the need for her to see how she could chalk her path ahead and serve her people.
She skipped the state BJP core committee meeting in Mumbai On Tuesday. On Thursday, she said there was no point in being a member of the core team in absence of 'democracy'.
Pankaja Munde also referred to insinuations that she lost the Parli seat to her cousin and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde because some BJP leaders didn't want her to win. The comments were seen as aimed at Fadnavis.
She said she will be holding a statewide 'Mashal Rally' across Maharashtra starting from January.
"I am starting a statewide Mashal Rally in Maharashtra from January. I will start my work through the Gopinath Munde Pratishthan from Mumbai office on January 26," she said.
When state BJP president Chandrakant Patil came on the stage, he appealed to leaders not to think about leaving the party
"If you are unhappy with someone, speak about the person. You do not have to leave the party; instead name the person and his deeds," said Patil, a former minister and sitting MLA.
On his part, Fadnavis has maintained he or the state BJP had no say in selection of assembly election candidates, who he said, were chosen by the central parliamentary board.
The BJP failed to form government in alliance with the Shiv Sena after the latter walked out over differences on power sharing.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party later joined hands with the Congress and the NCP, its identical opponents, to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.