Ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday appointed Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil as its state unit president and MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha as the city unit chief..
Patil, considered to be number 2 in the Devendra Fadnavis-led cabinet after the exit of veteran Eknath Khadse, replaced Raosaheb Danve. Danve had resigned as state BJP chief after his induction into the Union cabinet.
Lodha, a builder and the richest MLA in the state, will replace Ashish Shelar who was recently appointed a minister in the state government.
As per BJP constitution, a party leader cannot continue to hold the same post for more than two terms.
Patil will have to ensure that the party retains power in the state as well as its dominance in the assembly, especially when the ally Shiv Sena has not hidden its desire
to get the chief minister's post post-elections.
The elections for the 288-member Lower House are due in September-October this year.
Patil hails from Kolhapur district in western Maharashtra, once a stronghold of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
Incidentally, presidents of the state units of the Congress and NCP too hail from the same region.
Lodha, a five-time MLA, represents the tony Malabar Hill constituency in south Mumbai.
In 2014 assembly polls, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party by winning 122 seats. It went on to form a coalition government with the Shiv Sena, which won 63 seats.
In the recently-held Lok Sabha elections, the BJP retained its 2014 tally of 23 seats in Maharashtra, which sends 48 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
In a video message on his Twitter account, Patil told party workers that 'we have to work for BJP as well as Shiv Sena candidates'.
"When candidates from both parties win, the BJP-Sena government will come to power again," he said.
Speaking to reporters earlier, he said the saffron alliance aimed to win 220 seats in the assembly elections.
"I have worked for the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad for eight years so I know the geography and the people of the state. I need to meet them frequently as elections are around the corner," he said.
Patil is a first-generation politician, son of a tea-seller.
Lodha too has Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad background. He practiced as a lawyer in Jodhpur before shifting to Mumbai in 1981 to start a construction business.
His father, Justice Guman Mal Lodha, was a high court chief justice who later became three-time MP. He had a long association with the Jan Sangh, predecessor of the BJP.