Devendra Fadnavis, 52, deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra has vaunting ambitions. Currently he is chafing at being deputy to Eknath Shinde, Chief Minister, Maharashtra. In an earlier iteration, he was Shinde’s boss.
Reliable sources I interviewed for this story told me that the central Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was worried at the excessive projection of Fadnavis across all media, including social media, where he is now hailed as “Vikas purush” (development man) -- a branding that the party typically reserves for its towering leader Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
A man in terrible hurry
Talking about the moniker, a senior BJP leader told Gulf News, “Fadnavis is a man in a hurry. The jury is out on whether our tie up with Shinde will destroy the Thackeray family politically. So far they have won in the political face off. The Congress party won a crucial seat recently which we had held for 30 years”.
The seat he is referring to is the Pune Kasba assembly seat that was won by Ravindra Dhangekar of the Congress party, who was a joint candidate of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
The seat had become a prestige issue with Fadnavis and Shinde practically camping there to campaign along with the entire top brass of the BJP and the breakaway Sena.
After the loss, two consequential decisions were taken by the BJP -- a near indefinite postponement of the overdue Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, which has an eye-watering Rs 40 thousand crore budget and from where the Thackeray family draws its political and financial strength.
The BMC elections were meant to be the final defeat of the Uddhav Sena but sensing the mood of the voters they have been put on hold.
Big on words, little to showcase
The second decision, which is monumental for Fadnavis: the BJP will not put all its eggs in the Fadnavis' basket. Another senior leader noted, “making Fadnavis deputy to Shinde was a public rebuke to Fadnavis that in the BJP only one leader has the political capital. Unlike Fadnavis, our leader Modi ji has won us two general elections and a number of state elections. Fadnavis has only lost elections and now with barely 300 days to go for the battle of 2024, the central BJP is worried about the 48 Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra. Fadnavis always talks big but can’t seem to deliver”.
The wisdom of the political tie up with Shinde is being questioned by the central BJP as it hasn’t exactly enthused the voters who see Uddhav Thackeray as a decent man, let down by treachery from his own.
Meanwhile, an impatient Fadnavis has made it clear that that the logical end for Shinde is to merge his faction with the BJP and allow Fadnavis to be the CM again.
Fadnavis’s public impatience with Shinde and his hurry to catapult himself in to the top job in Maharashtra is now upsetting the mothership of the Sangh - the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS).
From being the RSS’ choice along with Nitin Gadkari -- both politicians are Brahmins -- Fadnavis is now upsetting the entire top brass of the Sangh.
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Fadnavis and Shinde taking parallel decisions
Things have come to such a pass that as Fadnavis runs a social media campaign with a close aide who has gotten three promotions, the Maharashtra BJP is restive and upset at the inordinate level in Fadnavis projection.
Governance in Maharashtra is suffering as both Fadnavis and Shinde vie to control the officials and take parallel decisions. Maharashtra has always been a well-governed state and the war of 'CM versus his deputy' has helped the Thackeray image.
Mumbai voters particularly have a fondness for the Thackeray family and Uddhav has taken full advantage of it, projecting himself as a leader who has suffered because of Delhi’s treachery. From being totally written off when the government led by him was toppled, Uddhav is now fully back in the political game.
Fadnavis had told the central BJP that without power, the MVA alliance of the Congress party and the Sharad Pawar Nationalist Congress Party alongside the Uddhav faction would collapse. Not only has this not happened, the alliance is winning seats and running smoothly.
Thackeray no pushover
Thackeray who was considered a political pushover has shown surprising resilience.
Says a senior Sena leader sarcastically, “the Shinde Fadnavis government has hardly set the Arabian Sea on fire. The public of Maharashtra is not too enthused. All politicians play power games but this is a government which only does power play between the CM and his deputy”.
With his new projection as “Vikas purush”, Fadnavis may have pushed his ambitions too far. Even Yogi Adityanath, two term Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, keeps away from this moniker.
Watch this space for a Fadnavis political graph.