CM Devendra Fadnavis' yatra master stroke ahead of polls
The chief minister, who is being projected as the CM for a second term, has been gaining mass popularity across the state as a seasoned politician
His pan-Maharashtra public outreach programme — a road journey called Mahajanadesh Yatra — should go a long way for CM Devendra Fadnavis given the overwhelming response it got from farmers, workers, men and women and millennial youth. People have been gathering to greet him along the roads that the yatra has taken in rural and urban areas. While the neatly organised event is a mark of BJP's management skills, the unorganised masses voluntarily welcoming the CM even in heavy downpour is an indicator of the CM's growing popularity and mass acceptance as a seasoned politician.
Fadnavis is perhaps the only incumbent CM in Maharashtra who has been projected as the man to continue in the hot seat after Assembly polls. The BJP has declared him as a leader in-charge of winning the popular vote yet again. A marked difference between the 2014 and 2019 elections is that Fadnavis would have to take the alliance partner Shiv Sena along as a major pre-poll partner and also ensure that the BJP wins maximum seats to retain the CM's chair. He does not mention the Sena directly in his speeches but seeks support for the BJP and its allies, making it amply clear that the alliance is here to stay.
The third round of the Mahajanadesh Yatra would complete a sustained campaign by mid-September. The model code of conduct for the Assembly polls is expected to come in force in the second week of this month and the new government would take over by end of October. Fadnavis was received well in Vidarbha, North Maharashtra and Marathwada, with the next leg of the yatra being in Western Maharashtra and Mumbai.
Having completed 2,600 km so far, the BJP has given its exhausted opposition and ally a template that is being replicated in the state. BJP has amassed a huge experience of holding yatras in Maharashtra and rest of India, some of which — like L K Advani's Rath Yatra — had changed the dynamics of national politics. Gopinath Munde's Sangharsh Yatra was another such noteworthy event by a BJP leader.
The Sena's youth leader Aaditya Thackeray too has hit the road. His parallel event may not be of the BJP's magnitude, but it has reached Sena to its influence areas. Congress has taken up a similar assignment for exposing the BJP and Sena's alleged failure in the government. The NCP's actor-turned-MP Amol Kolhe has been using his star value to revive the party's eroding base. His senior colleague in the entertainment industry and Sena leader Aadesh Bandekar also reached out to the women voters in specific, thanks to his high TRP game show 'Home Minister'.
Why CM's event stands out
NCP's yatra was marred by the withdrawal of Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji, who along with Kolhe, was to lead the opposition charge. Bhosale is expected to join BJP any day soon. Congress delayed the travel because of infighting within its rank. Both opposition parties are serious in their efforts and gathering their respective traditional supporters, but they haven't yet found a ground for convincing voters.
Sharad Pawar's NCP is passing through a critical phase as many seniors, including close relatives of the party's first family have shifted their loyalty to the BJP or the Sena. Nonetheless, the defections have given NCP a plank that the ruling party is misusing power. Fadnavis responds to the allegations with aggression. He says the leaders who have changed side don't see any future in remaining in the opposition.
Fadnavis's speeches are properly customised for each place he visits. The feedback on pending issues and major demands is gathered well in advance and processed at the CM's end. As he speaks, he lists Modi and his government's achievements and tells the audience what has been planned for the future. He sheds light on the economic and foreign policy and punctuates the talk with a popular view on Kashmir issue.
Criticism of Opposition doesn't feature much on his speeches but he reacts strongly whenever asked to respond at press conferences held every morning. In Marathwada, he talked primarily about drought mitigation, solving irrigation issues and drinking water problems. A steady spell of monsoon during his travel through a parched region has given the CM a much-wanted relief ahead of elections.
Ruling parties are always at an advantage. It's all about using these advantages to the party's benefit. Like his boss PM Narendra Modi, Fadnavis has been in election mode all through his five-year tenure. The time-tested yatras, in particular the BJP's, have rewritten national narratives and built brands within party ranks. Fadnavis's yatra has added a new quotient to his brand value.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to email@example.com
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Election Results 2019: CM Devendra Fadnavis overjoyed with historic win