Maharashtra’s changed political landscape: The rise of new faces and fall of giants
If power has allowed new faces to emerge in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) besides chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, the absence of it has led to marginalisation of some in the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Leaders such as Chhagan Bhujbal, Eknath Khadse, RR Patil, Patangrao Kadam were at the forefront during the 2014 Maharashtra assembly poll campaign. The poll result and subsequent developments changed the equation amid new leaders such as Chandrakant Patil and Girish Mahajan from the BJP and Dhananjay Munde from the NCP emerging as new power centres while Bhujbal and Khadse’s influence diminished due to cases against them.
“It is the shift in power that has made some leaders irrelevant while few have become new power centres. During the Congress-NCP’s 15-year-rule in Maharashtra, many gained prominence due to the power they enjoyed. Now that BJP is in power, leaders like Fadnavis, Girish Mahajan and Chandrakant Patil are prominent political faces,” said Abhay Deshpande, a political observer.
Ahead of 2014 polls, Khadse, 67, was a prominent face of the BJP and was held responsible for breaking alliance with the Sena. Khadse was, in fact, one of the chief ministerial candidates of the BJP. The subsequent case against him pertaining to alleged irregularities in connection with purchase of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) land near Pune, took his ministry away while his political weightage also waned in the state.
While the state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) probing the MIDC land deal case offered the former revenue minister a clean chit, his rehabilitation is still awaited.
Bhujbal, who was deputy chief minister of state, met with the same fate as Khadse as he was sent to prison for two years in a money laundering case. The 72-year-old NCP leader, once known for his mass appeal among Other Backward Classes (OBCs), is now struggling to stage a comeback amid speculations of his defection to the Shiv Sena, which the leader refuted.
While Bhujbal’s space in the NCP is being filled by Dhananjay Munde and Jitendra Awhad, two firebrand OBC leaders, Khadse has been overshadowed in the party by growing stature of Mahajan, the 59-year-old leader from Jalgaon and close confident of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
From winning elections for the party, facilitating entry of leaders such as Sujay Vikhe-Patil and Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil and others into the BJP, to successfully mediating agitating sections, Mahajan is also a man of all seasons for the BJP.
The emergence of Chandrakant Patil, another BJP leader, considered second most important after Fadnavis, is also interesting. The former Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) member, Patil’s rise is mostly attributed to his equations with BJP president Amit Shah. Patil, 60, a Maratha face of the BJP, is currently state party unit chief after he replaced Raosaheb Danve, also a Maratha leader. Hailing from Kolhapur, Patil came in close contact with Shah when he was working with the Gujarat ABVP unit.
While power has made many BJP leaders big, the absence of it has reduced stature of some Congress leaders including Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan. The internal wrangling and lack of cohesion has also failed to see any leader emerging within the party except Rajiv Satav, who was member of Parliament from Hingoli between 2014 to 2019, but chose not to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In the Shiv Sena, while old leaders such as Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote continued to be ministers in Fadnavis government, there was emergence of only one leader, Eknath Shinde.