In what could be the last cabinet reshuffle before the Assembly elections next year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has given the chief of Siddhivinayak temple trust a junior minister’s status. Aadesh Bandekar, a Shiv Sena leader and popular Marathi TV show host, will now enjoy the facilities of Minister of State (MoS) in the Maharashtra cabinet.
“I won’t take any allowance; I just want to serve the people. The status of MoS has not been given to a man, it has been given to the position (Chairman of Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple) in which I am right now,” Aadesh Bandekar told news agency .
The elevation of Mr Bandekar is being seen by the opposition as the BJP’s bid to woo the Shiv Sena, as he is considered close to party chief Uddhav Thackeray, say sources.
During the bitter campaign ahead of the Palghar Lok Sabha bypolls last month, the Maharashtra Chief Minister had accused Mr Bandekar of tampering with an audio clip, in which Mr Fadnavis was purportedly heard telling BJP workers to use “saam, daam, dand, bhed (negotiation, money, punishment and division)” to win the bypoll. The Chief Minister had reportedly also said how could Mr Bandekar “indulge in dirty tricks” being the chairman of Siddhivinayak temple trust.
Mr Bhandekar had started his career in Marathi theatre but later joined the Shiv Sena in 2009. He had also contested the elections in 2014 on a Sena ticket but had lost to MNS candidate Nitin Sardesai.
The government order of giving MoS status to Mr Bandekar comes about ten days after BJP president Amit Shah’s Sampark for Samarthan one-on one meeting with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, at the latter’s residence in Matoshree. “The meeting was positive. This is the beginning of reducing tensions between both the parties. More meetings are being planned in the coming days to improve relations”, BJP sources had said.
Ties between the BJP and the Shiv Sena have touched rock-bottom over the past few years. Amid daily attacks at the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shiv Sena has declared that it will go it alone in parliamentary polls next year.