Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar, who is representing Nilanga constituency in Maharashtra Assembly, is a rising star in the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state. He is also a member of RSS and holding the post of General Secretary of BJP’s Maharashtra State Unit. Recently, he was sworn in as a Skill Development and Labour Minister in Devendra Fadnavis government.
Thirty-Eight-year-old Sambhaji Patil, had once created history by winning against his own grandfather, eight-time MLA and former Chief Minister, late Shivajirao Patil-Nilangekar. They were having some property dispute and family tussle.
Sambhaji, who has a commercial pilot’s licence, joined politics after his father’s demise. Politics is not new to him but then also he refused to contest the last Lok Sabha election, saying that he wanted to start his political career as an MLA. After he rejected the ticket, his mother contested the general election. For providing justice to factory workers, he stood against his grandfather. Those days, people were troubled with issues like unemployment and non-payment of crop insurance. Somewhere, the displeasure in public against senior Nilangekar was seeing. Perhaps, this has motivated Sambhaji Nilangekar to blow a bugle against his grandfather.
Sambhaji then formed his own political party — the Nilanga Vikas Aghadi to contest the election against his grandfather. There were many reasons, why Sambhaji and family had parted ways with Shivajirao, in an ongoing tussle, his father left this world for heavenly abode in 1999. Economic prosperity and development were missing in his area. Water is a major issue, especially during summer. Drought was severe. The Ambulga cooperative sugar factory, run by Mr. Patil Nilangekar, was closed and about Rs. 4.5 crores is outstanding to farmers and shareholders. About 8,000 farmers were not paid for their sugarcane. People were angry with Shivajirao, but not with his political party Congress. Nilanga epitomizes the problems in Latur and to a larger extent in Marathwada. Despite the numerous educational institutions, the taluka has few bright students. While, the Latur model of developing secondary education has worked to some extent, it has not spread to other parts of the region.
Sambhaji’s mother, Roopatai Patil, had won from Latur on a BJP-Sena ticket in the Lok Sabha elections, defeating the former Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, by over 30,000 votes in 2004. Later on, she advised her son to contest the election and make sure to defeat rivals in such a way that they should lose their deposits. Roopatai Patel was strong lady and was strong-minded to aim Congress mukt Nilanga. After this humiliating defeat, Shivajirao Patil, who neglected villagers, started visiting them to earn their good will. However, it was too late and Sambhaji was already their ‘hero’. Senior Nilangekar accepted the people’s mandate. The outdated domination of politicians gave way to a more meaningful representation by choosing Sambhaji. After that win, he never looked back and continued his hard work. Today, he has become one of the strongest BJP cadre and mass leader.
Since 2014, and especially after former Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde and former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh’s demise, the state politics especially Latur’s and Nilanga’s has changed drastically in the hands of next generation. The appointment of Pankaja Palve Munde, daughter of Gopinathji Munde, to head the youth wing of the party was being debated in hushed tones. Munde’s supporters however justified the appointment. Pankaja, an MLA from Beed district, is being seen as a counter to Surpriya Sule, daughter of Sharad Pawar (NCP) and Praniti Shinde, daughter of Sushil Kumar Shinde (Congress).
Pankaja, later on became rebellious and started attacking CM Devendra Fadnavis, yet he ignored her on several occasions. However, the public spat between Fadnavis and Rural Development Minister over re-allocation of portfolios of ministers has become the highlight of the expansion of the state cabinet. As he affected a reshuffle of portfolios headed by ministers in his team, Fadnavis sprung a surprise by taking away some departments from her. Fadnavis took water conservation and employment guarantee scheme departments from her and reallocated them to two new ministers, Ram Shinde and Sambhaji Nilangekar.
Sambhaji Nilangekar too was named in a controversy. He was found to be closely associated with a company listed as a wilful defaulter by the Bank of Maharashtra. He was guarantor for a loan that was a non-performing asset (NPA) and declared as a “fraud account” with an outstanding balance of Rs. 49.29 crore owed to two state-owned banks — Bank of Maharashtra and Union Bank of India. Further, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last year filed a chargesheet in a case of cheating lodged by the banks after finding that the mortgage deed papers for the loan had been tampered with. The CBI as an accused also named Nilangekar. The accused have been charged under sections 409 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code for siphoning off funds and cheating. However, Nilangekar’s lawyer Chandrashekhar Sabnis claimed that it was the banks that manipulated the original deed submitted with the sub- registrar. He said land was not a part of the mortgage agreement.
He said the unit’s problems started when the banks failed to release funds that were agreed upon when the loan was approved. Sambhaji was merely a guarantor, and that the dispute over property, which the bank says was offered as collateral, was politically motivated. The CBI investigations showed that the property offered as collateral at the time of sanctioning the loan was not the property eventually mortgaged. Nilangekar said the dispute over the property arose because his grandfather, a former Congress Chief Minister Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, had challenged its ownership and staked claim on the property.
Anyway, leaving all the controversies and disappointments aside, CM Fadnavis’ team has three years left to show its performance and fulfill the promises made to the people.
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