Union Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad started the Jan Ashirwad Yatra Monday from Bhagwan Gad, Parli in Beed district of Maharashtra.
The yatra is a public outreach programme to help popularise various central schemes and is being carried out by the four Union ministers from the state who were inducted into the Modi Cabinet last month – Narayan Rane, Bharati Pawar, Kapil Patil and Bhagwat Karad.
Before setting out on the six-day yatra, Karad got in touch with BJP national secretary Pankaja Munde. “I undertake this yatra with the blessings of our beloved leader late Gopinath Munde. He remains our most revered leader and inspiration,” Karad said.
Parli is the home turf of the Mundes. Beed MP Pritam Munde is the daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde and the younger sister of Pankaja. Pankaja Munde had contested and won from Parli constituency in the Assembly polls in 2009 and 2014, but lost the seat in 2019 to her estranged cousin Dhananjay Munde who represented the NCP.
When Karad was inducted into the Union Cabinet, supporters of the Mundes were upset as they wanted the BJP to consider two-term MP Pritam for the ministerial post in the Modi government. Last month, Munde backers had resigned from local bodies in protest against the party’s decision, following which Pankaja held a meeting to defuse tensions. The party’s national president J P Nadda had also categorically told the Mundes to intervene and ease the unrest.
BJP insiders, however, say that “by making Karad undertake the yatra from Parli, the party wants to issue a stern message to the Munde sisters”, cautioning that “protests don’t work in a cadre-based organisation.” Nonetheless, beginning the yatra from Parli also means that the BJP wants to show Munde supporters that they still hold late leader Gopinath Munde in the highest regard.
Pankaja, however, chose to downplay the developments. “I have given my good wishes to Karad for the Jan Ashirwad Yatra from Parli. Every leader in BJP had a strong bond with the late Munde. If the yatra starts from Parli, it is welcome,” she said.
Commenting on the party’s decision to elevate Karad as Union Minister and then project him as the face of Marathwada region, Pankaja said it is part of the organisation’s work. “As the party’s national secretary, I have been assigned tours in Karnataka and Telengana. Similarly, there are four ministers from Maharashtra who will tour the state. Karad is one of them.”
Karad, who has been tasked with reaching out to people in the drought-hit Marathwada region, will travel 623 km covering the eight Lok Sabha constituencies of Beed, Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Parbhani, Jalna, Hingoli and Osmanabad from August 16-21.
While Kapil Patil, who is Union MoS for Panchayat Raj, will cover 570 km across Thane and Raigad districts from August 16-20, MoS for Health Bharti Pawar will focus on tribal belts, travelling 431 km across the five Lok Sabha constituencies in Palghar, Nasik, Dhule and Nandurbar districts on the same five days, said yatra chief Sanjay Kelkar.
MoS for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Narayan Rane, who is being projected as the party’s face in Konkan region, will cover 650 km in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts in coastal Konkan, besides the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation areas from August 19-25.