Poised for another term, CM Devendra Fadnavis set to make history
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis wasn’t a new name to Maharashtra politics, but his elevation as the chief minister in 2014 came as a surprise to many in the state and the national capital.
The 49-year-old politician, who won his fifth assembly election on Thursday, was chosen for the post over the claims of veterans like fellow Nagpur politician Nitin Gadkari and former minister Eknath Khadse. It was for the first in recent years that Maharashtra had a Brahmin chief minister. He retained the Nagpur South West, winning more than 56% of the votes.
Fadnavis had — and has — several advantages. His non-confrontationist approach helped him assuage the hurt of the Marathas when the community campaigned for quotas in government jobs and college admissions. He wasn’t seen to be hostile to any particular social group and helped the BJP weave a rainbow coalition of castes.
His governance remained largely free of any major scandal, and any corruption charge surrounding a minister in his cabinet did not stick to him.
Fadnavis came from Nagpur and had strong backing from the leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP.
He was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice for the chief minister’s post and this helped in neutralizing the opposition he faced in the CM’s office, initially from fellow BJP leaders.
Fadnavis is young and seen as someone who can be groomed for bigger roles in the future.
The election results on Thursday may be bittersweet for Fadnavis, who had raised the bar for himself by claiming that the BJP will attempt to get a majority (145 seats) on its own even when his party had fielded candidates in just 154 seats. But he still becomes the first sitting CM to lead his party to victory in the state since Vasantrao Naik.
There was not a significant dip in the BJP’s vote share compared to the last election, but Fadnavis missed his own target by miles. The BJP won 105 seats. A majority on its own, or a figure closer to the 145 seat mark, would no doubt have left Fadnavis happier. As chief minister, he had to deal with the tantrums of ally Shiv Sena, which fought the last assembly and municipal elections separately.
Even in government, the party gave Fadnavis sleepless nights over several issues.
How comfortable Fadnavis’s second stint as the chief minister is will depend a lot on the Sena, which has not been able to come to terms with the BJP’s big brother status in Maharashtra, a position that it had during the late Bal Thackeray’s time.
Sena has already exhibited its intention to stake a claim for the chief minister’s post and the current numbers in the state assembly mean that it will need a lot of negotiations by both sides to reach an agreement on forming government.
Sena chief Uddhav Tahckeray hinted at possible trouble in the alliance by suggesting his party will adhere to the “50-50 formula” agreed between the two parties.
During the campaign and before that, Sena leaders claimed the parties had an agreement to rotate the CM’s post between themselves. The claim was never supported by the BJP.
BJP chief Amit Shah too hinted that his party will not leave its claim on the CM’s post. “Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, the Maharashtra government will remain committed to progress of the state and service to its people,” he tweeted, thanking the people for reposing their trust in the BJP-Sena government.