Eye on Maharashtra: The only 'nowhere man' in BJP in the state ?

Currently, the Maharashtra CM is his enemy number one, believes former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, who feels abandoned by his own leaders. But Somaiya has only himself to blame, writes Sujata Anandan

Illustration by Clyde Crasto
Illustration by Clyde Crasto

Sujata Anandan

He’s as blind as he can be/

Just sees what he wants to see

Doesn’t have a point of view/

Knows not where he’s going to

He’s a real nowhere man/

Sitting in his nowhere land

Making all his nowhere plans for nobody…

John Lennon is said to have written the lyrics of ‘The Nowhere Man’ about himself, after failing to come up with a good song. But the song continues to resonate and applies to a lot many people in a lot many fields. Poor Kirit Somaiya, former BJP MP, is one of them. Is he a comic or a tragic figure? He does provide comic relief to Maharashtra’s politics but has been made a fall guy for other BJP leaders so often that it is almost tragic.

The unkindest cut has come from Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who has described him as a blackmailer and extortionist and that has made Somaiya see red. So, he has stated that the attack on him by Shiv Sainiks in Pune last week – which the Sena denies – was ordered directly by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Currently, the Maharashtra CM is enemy number one to Somaiya, who feels abandoned by his own leaders. But Somaiya has himself to blame. He started by targeting Nitin Gadkari, at the behest of L.K. Advani, who was then still hopeful of becoming prime minister and feared that Gadkari, as an RSS favourite, would pip him to the post.

It was not the Congress or the NCP but Somaiya who brought out hitherto unknown facts about Gadkari’s financial dealings, including his possession of benami flats in the infamous Adarsh building that scalped former Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan. Unfortunately for Somaiya, Narendra Modi edged out Advani.

While he was left without a grateful godfather, he escaped getting singed in the euphoria of the party’s victory in 2014 and Gadkari’s demotion from party president to ordinary MP.

However, Somaiya has always rushed in where angels fear to tread. At a time when current Food and Civil Supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal was in jail for a charge not established (he was later acquitted), Somaiya made his way to Nashik where Bhujbal had a farmhouse and demanded that cops bring down sign boards and name plates on Bhujbal’s house.

But by what law? Somaiya was then an MP and BJP in power in both the state and at the Centre. However, before the reluctant cops could react, Bhujbal’s supporters arrived with sticks and stones and made for Somaiya. He ran for his life and barely managed to make it to his car. Reporters in Nashik speak of how Somaiya launched a frantic search for a photographer present at the site and is said to have bought all the pictures at a handsome premium to prevent any evidence leaking through. Why should he have bought out the photographer?

But Raut is unfair in targeting Somaiya alone in this regard-- he, after all, gets it from his party and the government which seemingly has made it a habit of snooping on and targeting people in high places.

Somaiya, not willing to learn lessons, readily offered his services to Devendra Fadnavis during the 2017 Bombay municipal elections to target Uddhav Thackeray. Fadnavis was in search of a fall guy like Somaiya to take on Thackeray without having to burn his own fingers in the process.

If Somaiya had done his homework, he would have known that Gadkari never forgets a slight and Fadnavis always forgets a favour done to him; that Modi and Amit Shah are completely focused on their own interests with little care for their supporters. So, when Shah came round to plead with Uddhav Thackeray for a formal alliance with BJP, Uddhav’s condition was that Somaiya, a sitting MP, must not be given a ticket by the BJP. Shah dropped Somaiya without ceremony, replaced him with another Gujarati who got elected while Fadnavis did nothing to plead on Somaiya’s behalf.

So now Somaiya is an abandoned lone ranger. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik says Somaiya is in search of importance and has never been able to prove a single allegation against anybody. I tend to agree.

Uddhav Thackeray has already rendered him irrelevant and as chief minister can get him arrested-- like he did with Narayan Rane and is attempting to do with the latter’s absconding son – for disturbing the peace or making false allegations. Shiv Sena men in Pune might well have roughed him up somewhat but as a former ally of the party, Somaiya should know that is the way of Shiv Sainiks when their ire is aroused and they do not wait for approval or sanction to blacken anybody’s face.

Given their old tendencies, put on a leash these days because Thackeray does not wish to jeopardise the government, Somaiya is lucky he got away with just a few scratches and is not cooling his heels for disturbing the peace in alien territory - for Pune is NCP’s turf and NCP men can at times be tougher than the Shiv Sainiks.

Barring some lip service and support from inconsequential party men, no one from the BJP has come to Somaiya’s rescue. If only someone in BJP would assure him that he has not completely signed himself off from the good books of those who matter, he may give up his foolish shenanigans.

He is unfortunately isolated in his own party, most of whom privately agree with Raut’s assessment of him.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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