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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Yes, chief minister season 2? Saffron win will mark the return of Fadnavis

The BJP top brass, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, has, however, made it clear that the party’s second government in the state will be led by Fadnavis.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 24, 2019 04:59 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Prime minister Narendra Modi along with Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackrey during Maharashtra assembly election rally at MMRDA ground, BKC in Mumbai on October 18.
Prime minister Narendra Modi along with Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackrey during Maharashtra assembly election rally at MMRDA ground, BKC in Mumbai on October 18.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
         

If the saffron alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the Assembly elections as predicted by most exit polls, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will get a second innings in Maharashtra. This is the first time in at least three decades when there will be no political intrigue or lobbying for the top job in the state after the polls.

In the past 30 years in Maharashtra, the Congress, later the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) or the Shiv Sena rarely contested or campaigned for polls by headlining their chief ministerial candidates. This is why only two chief ministers in Maharashtra – Vasantrao Naik and Fadnavis – have been able to complete their full tenures.

When the first Sena-led government came to power in 1995, there was no clarity over who party supremo Bal Thackeray would pick for the top job. Manohar Joshi, the first Sena CM, was replaced by former the Sena, Congress and now BJP leader Narayan Rane in 1999, just eight months before the elections.

The BJP top brass, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, has, however, made it clear that the party’s second government in the state will be led by Fadnavis. When Fadnavis emerged as the top choice for the chief minister’s post in 2014 after the party’s win in the polls, attempts were made by Union minister Nitin Gadkari’s camp to hijack the selection process. Fadnavis’s selection was also seen as a bit of a fluke as senior leader Gopinath Munde, another serious contender for the chief ministerial post besides Gadkari, died in an accident four months before the state polls.

“If the BJP-Sena wins a majority in the state, irrespective of the winning margins, Fadnavis will be the CM and he will continue for another three years, if not the complete second tenure. There is currently no alternative to Fadnavis in the state BJP when it comes to political acumen or administrative efficiency,” said political analyst Abhay Deshpande.

Several internal party rivals or former CM aspirants namely former revenue minister Eknath Khadse and former higher education minister Vinod Tawde have now been sidelined. They both were not given tickets to contest the polls.

Other aspirants like revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, rural development minister Pankaja Munde, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, school education minister Ashish Shelar will keep a low profile, knowing that Fadnavis enjoys the mandate from the top. Other than Mungantiwar, who is a known Gadkari supporter, the rest are in Shah’s good books.

Patil, the incumbent state party chief, who has been given an electoral debut from the BJP’s safe seat, Kothrud in Pune city, is seen to be close to Shah and may be the most serious competitor to Fadnavis in the coming years. Munde said, “I am not a CM contender or aspirant now or even in 2014. I have always backed Fadnavis as the chief minister.” “PM Modi has endorsed Fadnavis as the CM and we fought the elections under his leadership. In any case, in the BJP, we don’t have suspense. We always continue with performing CMs,” said a senior BJP leader, who did not want to be named.