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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

2019 elections and talk about Marathi manoos as Prime Minister

The question of a Maharashtra politician becoming PM turns into a talking point in the state every time there are general elections around the corner.

mumbai Updated: Jan 08, 2019 00:15 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Union minister Nitin Gadkari is being spoken about as a possible prime ministerial candidate.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari is being spoken about as a possible prime ministerial candidate. (HT FILE)

Among other things that made news last week, remarks made by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the World Marathi Conference at Nagpur drew some attention. In response to a question if any Maharashtra politician would become Prime Minister in the next 30 years, Fadnavis said there was possibility of more than one Marathi politician claiming the top post in Indian democracy by 2050.

The remark came at a time when some people (within and outside the BJP) are suggesting that Nitin Gadkari could become the Prime Minister after the 2019 elections.

The whole issue of the next Prime Minister is all speculation at this juncture since the elections are yet to be declared. However, the question of a Maharashtra politician becoming Prime Minister turns into a talking point in the state every time there are general elections around the corner.

Why can no politician from a state that elects 48 members of Parliament, houses India’s financial capital and has influence on the nation’s economy, become Prime Minister, it is often asked.

Maharashtra’s first chief minister, the late YB Chavan, was often seen as Prime Minister material. Chavan went on to handle Union home and finance ministries and even reached the post of deputy prime minister.

After Chavan, for several decades Sharad Pawar was seen as a Maharashtra politician who could reach the top post in Indian democracy. Pawar himself never hid his ambition to become Prime Minister.

He threw his hat into the ring after the 1991 elections following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. However, he could not gather enough support in the party and the Congress top brass voted in favour of PV Narsimha Rao.

Pawar decided to stay in national politics and Rao appointed him defence minister in his cabinet. Resourceful and known for his personal friendship with politicians from different parties, Pawar would have emerged as a consensus candidate during the era of coalition politics but he did not get an opportunity. His close aides rue that politically weaker leaders like HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral got the top job due to coalition politics but the prime ministership remained elusive for the Maratha strongman.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Pramod Mahajan was seen as a national leader hailing from Maharashtra who would make it big.

There was a time when several BJP leaders in Maharashtra were convinced that Mahajan was capable leader and a natural successor to the top duo of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. However, his tragic end put a full stop to that debate.

With the general elections a few months away, the name of Gadkari as prime ministerial candidate is now being taken in that context. Gadkari has earned a certain reputation due to his style of functioning as a minister.

During his tenure as public works minister of Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government during 1995-99, Gadkari built the Mumbai-Pune expressway and also kick-started some other infrastructure projects. As transport and shipping minister, he has launched several projects.

It is not just Gadkari. With his emergence as a strong leader following his elevation as chief minister of the state, Fadnavis too is seen as a future national leader. Within the BJP, there is talk of how Fadnavis is being groomed by the Sangh for a significant role at national level in future.

So, will any Maharashtra politician succeed in getting the top job after the next general elections? The summer of 2019 will have the answer. Till then, the discussions in the drawing rooms across Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur will continue.

First Published: Jan 08, 2019 00:15 IST

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