When Gangadharrao Fadnavis felt the need for expanding the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) presence in Jhingabai Takli, a village near Nagpur, he came up with a unique idea. He set up a paan shop, and as customers started to trickle in, he explained to them the party’s ideology.
The village has had a BJP sarpanch for several years now.
The legacy of Gangadharrao, who passed away in 1987, is now being carried forward by his younger son, Devendra Fadnavis, who is the BJP’s top choice for the post of chief minister.
After his father, who was the MLA of Nagpur graduates’ constituency in the upper house, died, Fadnavis, 18 at the time, announced to his mother Sarita that he will make politics his full-time career.
He finished studying law from the Nagpur University and was an active member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (BJP’s student wing, which he led at the state-level).
He won his first election as a civic corporator at the age of 22.
Politicking, however, did not stop him from further studies. Fadnavis did his masters in project management from a German
“My son contested the municipal elections when he was writing his law exam. He won a gold medal in his Hindu law paper, and also got elected from our civic ward,” Sarita had told HT during an interview a few years ago.
Fadnavis went on to became Nagpur’s mayor (second youngest in the country then), and in 1997, he headed the state’s first mayor-in-council, similar to the state’s council of ministers, to run the local government.
The baby-faced leader managed to stay out of controversies even as his following as a mass leader grew.
His remarkable performance in opposition benches of the Assembly in the past 15 years won him national and international accolades. He won the best parliamentarian award by the Commonwealth Parliamentarian Association. His experience as a college-level debater came handy in cornering several ministers.
He, however, was a thorn in the ruling camp’s side, especially in his last two terms, when he accused the NCP and Congress leaders of corruption and irregularities.
“I always had a goal in my mind: remove the Congress and NCP from the state. And with Narendrabhai Modi’s firepower and strong leadership we could do it very successfully,” Fadnavis told HT after the Assembly election results were announced.
“My party wants to take up the challenge of taking Maharashtra ahead in all sectors, because the Congress and NCP reduced this prime state to a non-entity,” he had told HT.
Journalist from Nagpur, Vinod Deshmukh said Fadnavis’ clean image, popularity and in-depth study of various subjects made him a good leader and worthy of the CM’s post. “I’m confident that he will emerge as a fine CM.”