A 30-minute closed door meeting between Union minister Nitin Gadkari and the state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday seems to have sealed the deal in favour of the latter when it came to the position of Maharashtra chief minister.
Both these leaders are strong contenders for the coveted post following BJP’s victory in the assembly elections. Fadnavis is the choice of the central leadership and the grapevine in the political circles is that he was instructed from Delhi to visit Gadkari and seek his blessings.
The meeting of Fadnavis (44) with Gadkari (58) is quite significant when 39 newly-elected BJP MLAs from the Vidarbha region met the union minister at his Nagpur residence on Tuesday and later persuaded him to take the reins of the state. Two other party MLAs and five independents also met him and extended their support when the central leadership is hell-bent on nominating Fadnavis.
Notable BJP MLA from the region and senior party leader, Sudhir Mungantiwar has been pitching for Gadkari name for the chief ministership. The leader of the state legislative council and newly-elected MLA Vinod Tawde even said that Gadkari would be the right choice for the post in view of the present circumstances while the senior party leader Eknath Khadse expressed his displeasure over the pressure tactics of Gadkari.
The desperation from the Gadkari camp could be gauged from the fact that three newly elected party MLAs, Krishna Khopde, Sudhakar Kohle and Samit Meghe offered to resign from their respective seats for the union minister to pave the way for his selection as the chief minister of the state.
However, Gadkari had earlier clarified his stand not to return to state politics and said it was for the party’s central leadership to decide and he would accept any responsibility given to him, an indication that he was one of the contenders for the post.
The sudden meeting of both the leaders surprised all when both were showing their strength within the organisation before the selection of the top post of the state.
Gadkari had arrived in Nagpur from Delhi on Tuesday evening while Fadnavis is also here since Tuesday evening and both did not bother to meet each other during the period. Moreover, there was even no telephone communication during the period between the two leaders.
The relationship between Gadkari and Fadnavis is not very cordial in the recent past even though Fadnavis is a protégé of Gadkari. “We have no differences. My political guru is Devendra’s father, Ganghadharrao Fadnavis while I was instrumental in bringing Devendra into politics,” Gadkari said after the meeting of the duo at his residence this morning. However, he maintained that it was just a courtesy meeting on the occasion of Diwali.
It was said that the central leadership already communicated to both, that Fadnavis would be the BJP choice for the chief ministership and Gadkari would ensure a smooth passage to him and guide him as a senior party leader in future. Fadnavis was told by the party leaders that he should go to his place and take a blessing before leaving for Mumbai on October 26 evening. He was accompanied by the city mayor, Pravin Datke.
Gadkari and Fadnavis are likely to meet the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat either on October 25 or October 26. The party observers Rajnath Singh and JP Nadda are coming to Mumbai to select the new chief minister on October 27.
According to RSS headquarters here, Bhagwat and other senior RSS leaders, including its general secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi are out of Nagpur and expected here on October 25.
The central mediator between the RSS and BJP for the recent crisis over the selection of chief minister, Chandrakantdada Patil, a veteran ABVP leader, is also coming here on October 25 to meet Fadnavis and Gadkari and later they are likely to meet the senior RSS leaders, informed a senior RSS pracharak, who preferred anonymity.