The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday appointed senior leader and Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil as the president of its Maharashtra state unit. The national BJP president Amit Shah also appointed Malabar Hill legislator and founder of real estate firm Lodha Group, Mangal Prabhat Lodha, as the president of the Mumbai BJP.

Raosaheb Danve, the outgoing president of Maharashtra BJP, resigned on Tuesday. Danve is a union minister of state for consumer affairs, food and public distribution system. Last month, Maharahstra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis carried out a cabinet reshuffle in which Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelarn was inducted as minister for school education.

The assembly elections in Maharashtra are likely to be held in October this year. Patil, 60, is the Maratha face of the BJP in the state and has held the number two position in the Fadnavis government ever since it came to power in October 2014. He currently holds the key revenue portfolio and also held the agriculture ministry till recently. A close confidante of Shah, Patil belongs to the Kolhapur district in Western Maharashtra and has been instrumental in establishing the party in the sugar-rich region which was earlier largely dominated by the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party. As a member of the Maharashtra legislative council, Patil was one of the key interlocutors between the restive Maratha community and the Maharashtra government all through the Maratha quota agitation. In June, the Bombay High Court upheld a law passed by the Fadnavis government to give quota to the Marathas. Patil’s appointment as the state BJP president barely three months ahead of the assembly polls is significant in the context of the political advantage the BJP hopes from the Maratha quota issue and also for his close relationship with the BJP top brass.

In contrast, Lodha is a soft-spoken businessman-politician, who takes charge of the Mumbai unit of the BJP after an eventful stint by Shelar. Since the BJP will fight the assembly elections in alliance with the Shiv Sena, a non-Marathi politician has been made the city unit chief, according to a state BJP functionary who requested anonymity. “BJP obviously gets Marathi votes but that aspect is taken care of by our alliance with Shiv Sena. The large non-Marathi population in Mumbai is also BJP’s strong vote-bank," the BJP functionary said.

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