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Finally, Devendra Fadnavis to be Maharashtra CM after Eknath Khadse gives in

In a special meeting yesterday, the party’s core committee asked the senior leader to propose the Nagpur MLA’s name for the top job; other contenders were asked to second the decision in a subsequent meet of BJP and allied legislators

The single largest party in Maharashtra finally managed to rein in its top members and choose its state leader. The BJP locked in on its Chief Minister-designate after convincing senior leader Eknath Khadse to give up his claim to the chair and support Devendra Fadnavis.

Devendra Fadanvis
Devendra Fadanvis

While Fadnavis had always been the frontrunner, different factions were backing their own leaders, such as Nitin Gadkari from Vidarbha and Eknath Khadse from northern Maharashtra. Former state BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar, Parli MLA Pankaja Munde and Borivli MLA Vinod Tawde were also touted as contenders.

After Eknath Khadse (right) agreed to support Devendra Fadnavis, the other contenders reportedly toed the party line
After Eknath Khadse (right) agreed to support Devendra Fadnavis, the other contenders reportedly toed the party line

But, party chief Amit Shah had a word with all the leaders and asked them to support Fadnavis in the meeting of legislators, which was held in the Vidhan Sabha yesterday. Tawde was summoned to Delhi on Monday and Shah clearly told him about the party’s decision regarding Fadnavis.

Key meeting
The BJP had been experiencing an internal crisis due to jockeying for the CM’s chair. After Nitin Gadkari’s show of strength in Nagpur, where 39 MLAs supported his bid for the top chair in the state, central leaders reined in the Union Minister for Transport.

It was communicated to him that his services were required in Delhi, and strong disapproval was shown over his pressure tactics. Khadse, too, had launched a campaign of his own, claiming that 30 legislators from northern Maharashtra were backing his claim to the coveted chair.

His contention was that the state has never had a CM from the region. Late in the night on Monday, senior leaders such as O P Mathur and Rajiv Pratap Rudy were closeted with state leaders, including Khadse.

When the issue couldn’t be resolved, another meeting was convened on Tuesday, in which the party core committee managed to convince Khadse to propose the 44-year-old’s name. The others — Mungantiwar, Tawde, Munde were asked to second the decision.

Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar and Raosaheb Dange and other leaders escorted Khadse, who was visibly upset, to the Vidhan Bhavan. In the official meeting of BJP and allied legislators there, all went according to plan and Fadnavis was elected the new state leader.

A senior leader said it was Khadse alone who had to be specially convinced by the party leaders; the rest had fallen in line. It was argued not to pass any resolution to authorise the central leadership to nominate a CM, as it would have sent wrong signals. In any case, the parliamentary board had already approved the Nagpur South West MLA’s name.

Know your CM

>> Forty-four-year-old Devendra Fadnavis is the son of BJP leader Gangadhar Fadnavis, whom Nitin Gadkari calls his “political guru” 

>> He holds a degree in Law and a post-graduate degree in Business Management; he has written two books on Economics

>> He cut his teeth in politics after joining the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

>> At 22, he became a corporator in the Nagpur civic body, and its youngest mayor in 1997 at the age of 27. He contested his first Assembly election in 1999 and won

>> Fadnavis is credited with pushing the previous Congress-NCP government into a corner over the alleged irrigation scam, which many claim is primarily responsible for the spate of suicide by farmers in the parched 

Vidarbha region
>> The cause of Vidarbha is known to be close to his heart, though he toned down the rhetoric during campaigning 
>> PM Narendra Modi had called him “Nagpur’s gift to the country” at a rally

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