Pune: Politics over the multi-crore tender for the 24x7 water supply project has split the city unit of the ruling BJP into two factions. One faction comprising BJP loyalists is led by Guardian Minister Girish Bapat while another faction is formed by BJP associate Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Kakade.
Differences between the two factions came to the fore when Municipal Commissioner Kunal Kumar announced the scrapping of the controversial tender process for the equitable and pressurised round-the-clock water supply project on Thursday citing the introduction of new tax regime GST as the reason.
However, when the BJP officer-bearers in the PMC, including Mayor Mukta Tilak, Standing Committee Chairman Murlidhar Mohol and leader of house Shrinath Bhimale, also reiterated the same reason given by Kumar behind scrapping of the tender, a furious Kakade called the BJP officer-bearers ‘stupid’.
Kakade, who is relatively new in the BJP but played an important role during the civic elections held six months ago to bring the BJP to power in the PMC, said his consultations with none other than Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis confirmed the reasons as favour shown to a select few bidders by the civic administration and the inflated cost estimation of the project.
Without mincing words, Kakade called the BJP office-bearers stupid, which deepened the rift between the two factions. The old BJP loyalists preferred to remain tight-lipped over Kakade’s comments following a directive by Girish Bapat. However, Murlidhar Mohol retaliated saying he gave two hoots about Kakade’s comments.
Since the beginning of the civic elections, Kakade, a city-based builder, poached leaders from the Congress and the NCP and brought them to the BJP fold. He got many of them elected taking the BJP’s tally to 98 from mere 23 seats in the PMC.
The outstanding performance of the BJP in the civic elections increased the political weight of Kakade, which caused the overt and covert war between Bapat and Kakade. Sources said Fadnavis himself supported Kakade to keep veteran BJP leader Girish Bapat in check. Fadnavis held his cards close to his chest to keep both the factions on tenterhooks.
Till recently, Bapat managed to keep Kakade away from party affairs in the PMC. However, claiming that he shared good relations with Fadnavis, Kakade said he asked the Chief Minister to order the civic administration to call off the tender process, failing which the party’s image in the public would be damaged.
However, Kakade’s claim exposed the factionalism as the corporators belonging to his camp expressed happiness over the scrapping of the tender process. On the other hand, the office-bearers supporting Bapat are maintaining silence on Kakade’s comments.
Factionalism is not new to the city BJP. There were two factions in the city unit, one owing allegiance to Gopinath Munde and another to union minister Nitin Gadkari. However, after Munde’s demise and Gadkari joining the Central government, the ‘void’ has been filled by Bapat and Kakade.