Two days after she took a vow in public against entering Mantralaya until the Dhangar community gets reservation, Maharashtra Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde Tuesday set foot in the secretariat and attended a Cabinet meeting.
Dhangars, who are included in the Vimukt Jati Nomadic Tribe (VJNT) category, have been demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for long.
"I, Pankaja Gopinath Munde, promise you in this public meeting that we will come to power without breaking the trust of Dhangars. But, until the issue of the Maratha reservation is finished, I will not step into my Mantralaya office," Munde had said.
Earlier in the day, when Munde was entering Mantralaya to attend the cabinet meeting, NCP legislator and convener of Sakal Dhangar community Ramrao Vadkute stopped her and asked her what happened to her announcement.
"The minister told me she never said that she will not climb the steps of Mantralaya. This is a betrayal of the Dhangar community. Today, she went back on her own statement and entered her office. However, in 2019, the Dhangars will ensure that you won't have to visit the Mantralaya," Vadkute told reporters.
Later speaking to media persons at her office, Munde said she has not broken her vow.
"What I had said was: 'We (BJP) will form government once again. However, even after coming to power, I will not enter Mantralaya until demands of Dhangars are fulfilled'. I am firm on my statement," the BJP MLA said, adding that she never stated that she will not climb the steps of Mantralaya now.
Instead of stopping me from entering Mantralaya, Vadkute should question those who kept Dhangars deprived of reservation for the last 70 years.
"If stopping me will give them reservation, I will be happy to be stopped," she said.
Reacting to the episode, Munde's arch rival and Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde (NCP) said the minister should stop her "farce" and answer clearly when would the Dhangars get quota.
"Today, we have stopped you from entering Mantralaya. Tomorrow, people will stop you from coming to power," said Dhananjay, the estranged cousin of Munde.
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