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Gamble to remain in power may cost Fadnavis in future

By Ketaki Ghoge, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON NOV 27, 2019 01:36 AM IST

When Devendra Fadnavis announced his resignation as the chief minister of Maharashtra on Tuesday afternoon at the government guest house, Sahyadri in Malabar Hill, he was flanked by several senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and former cabinet colleagues.

A senior BJP leader remarked wryly on the sidelines of this press conference that Fadnavis had more supporters on the day of the resignation than when he was sworn in as CM for the second time in a hurriedly organised ceremony three days back.

When that happened, the deal with the NCP’s Ajit Pawar was labelled a master stroke and was seen to have the blessings of the party’s top leaders. On Tuesday, it was being spoken of as a desperate ploy by the local unit.

And, while not many will go public with the criticism, it is clear that Tuesday’s fiasco will come at a cost to Fadnavis.

He will stay on as leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, but the party leadership is now expected to further push the cause of other local BJP leaders including state party chief Chandrakant Patil, former minister Ashish Shelar and the party’s Other Backward Class (OBC) face Pankaja Munde.

Patil, a Maratha leader, seen to be close to BJP chief Amit Shah was already being seen as an alternate power centre in the state. And in order to keep its OBC vote bank intact, the party may give Munde some role again despite her defeat in the polls.

”What happened was unfortunate. The mandate was for Sena-BJP. This alliance with Ajit Pawar was a compromise, a last resort to retain the CM’s post and our government. But, it is not something that has been liked by the people. As a party we will introspect what went wrong,” said Eknath Khadse, Fadnavis’ rival and a former minister.

A senior BJP leader said on condition of anonymity that a majority of the party’s senior leaders was in the dark about the bid for power.

The general sentiment is that it would have been better if Fadnavis had stayed quiet and waited for the three-party government to trip before making a bid for power.

However, a legislator and close aide of Fadnavis said on condition of anonymity that the BJP’s Delhi leadership was completely in the loop and a part of this decision to try and form the government.

“Both PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah dictated or were aware of these developments,’’ he said.

But some party leaders point out that the BJP could have done better. A former minister blamed this on Fadnavis’ tendency to not trust his colleagues.

“It’s not just this bid for power but also the way Sena-BJP relations have been handled or the way the government has been run in the last five years or even the way the election was managed,” this person added on condition of anonymity. “Fadnavis is not a team player and he does not trust anyone”.

Political analysts point out that what works for Fadnavis the most is the fact that there is no alternative. The state BJP has a deficit of experience and talent ; Fadnavis has been successful in sidelining a majority of his rivals including Khadse.

“Fadnavis will face flak because this shows political immaturity. He didn’t realise that Ajit Pawar is unreliable. Someone like Gadkari could have handled it differently,” said Prakash Bal, a political analyst.

Still, Bal added, the three-party alliance could fail and Fadnavis may have the last laugh after all.

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