New Delhi: The appointment of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as the Deputy CM of the state, in what is being seen as a surprising development by his close aides, may have ensured that the BJP leader from Maharashtra remains confined to state politics in the months to come, rather than be in an important position at the Centre.
According to party leaders in the central BJP, the 51-year-old Fadnavis had multiple times through his actions and words upset a section of the leadership. These were actions that created an impression that he was the favoured leader of the BJP top leadership in the western state. Even when the recent political drama in the state ended with the resignation of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Fadnavis’ supporters prematurely started celebrating the appointment of Fadnavis as the next Chief Minister.
A sitting Union Minister told The Sunday Guardian that Fadnavis’ supporters had believed that this time, he would be leading the party in the coming days given his “importance” in the BJP, which was evident in the way he was involved in decisions to arrange the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
“Once it was communicated to him that Eknath Shinde would be the CM, Fadnavis made it clear that he would not like to be a part of the Cabinet. However, the central leadership prevailed on him to accept the role of the Deputy CM. The party’s larger goal in the coming days in Maharashtra will be to strengthen the hands of Shinde and his supporters and ensure that the BJP alliance comes back to power in the next election. Shinde is a Maratha, someone who has literally risen from the ground and yet is a grounded leader who resonates well with the semi-urban and rural parts of Maharashtra. Those who are indicating that Shinde is a ‘stop-gap’ arrangement are missing the larger points,” he said.
Party leaders have also ruled out the possibility of BJP changing the CM midway and installing its own leader as the CM. Hence, as of today, Fadnavis will continue to report to Shinde till October 2024, when the next elections are due. With a Union Cabinet reshuffle to take place in the coming days, the appointment of Fadnavis as the Deputy CM may have effectively ruled out any chance of him being given a prominent place in the Union Cabinet. It must be added that Fadnavis was seen as a competent and capable administrator, which is why the BJP leadership insisted on him being in the new ministry.
The setback that Fadnavis suffered is a rare event in a political career that has always seen an upward climb. Fadnavis, a lawyer by education, was in August 2020 made the party’s in-charge for the 2020 Bihar elections, which is considered an important assignment for any leader who aspires for a bigger role in the party.
Earlier, Fadnavis, who became the mayor of Nagpur in 1997 at the young age of 27 years was, despite the party losing power in Maharashtra, appointed the Leader of Opposition. The party leadership went by his views when it did organizational changes in the party in 2020 during which supporters of other senior Maharashtra leaders like Pankaja Munde, Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde or even Nitin Gadkari could not find the same space for themselves.
“The party’s priority right now in Maharashtra is not the career of one individual, but how the party will decimate Uddhav Thackeray by making Shinde and his groups more powerful. Fadnavis is possibly facing one of the most challenging times of his political career and it will take a lot of effort for him to stay as ‘tall’ as he had become until last week. However, Fadnavis remains among the potential Next Gen leaders of the BJP now that he has accepted the decision of the party to install Shinde as CM and himself as his deputy.”