Dharmendra Jore: The challenges, they just keep on coming
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis may have single-handedly won BJP the recent self-government polls, but what lies ahead is even tougher
Today, when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will walk in to the state legislature at his home turf in Nagpur, it will be with an unparalleled, robust self-confidence. Two years ago — at the same venue — it was yet another celebration when he stepped in to face his first-ever full-length legislative session as the CM. However, there were at least five ministers under him who were extremely disappointed that they had not made the cut to the top office. Before going into the winter session of 2014, Fadnavis was also leading a minority government because the Sena had been sitting in the Opposition before joining a week before the session started. The CM had his hands full then — disgruntled party seniors treated him like a novice; the Sena troubled him despite being part of the government.
Fadnavis still has his hands full, but this time, the burden he carries is sans the insecurity that his own party seniors had been causing him by berating him as a boy wonder without any political acumen and administrative skills. The people of Maharashtra — who voted the BJP to power in 2014 — have stood rock-solid with BJP’s first Maharashtra CM again and helped him in triple his party’s share in the small civic bodies.
The achievement is no mean success, especially when the opposition expected demonetisation to work in their favour. And it is seen as Fadnavis’s success because he had taken it upon himself to see his party through to thumping victory. Fadnavis had thought of a strategy to topple the opposition — the Congress and NCP — much before, in making a legislation that facilitated the council presidents’ direct elections from the public, instead of selecting them from among the winning councilors. It proved to be a masterstroke in a situation that the opposition projected as anti-people. Other issue that the experts thought would go against the BJP was a Maratha agitation, which had taken people in semi-urban and rural parts of Maharashtra by storm.
Boy wonder to man of steel
The victory, if we say so to chide his detractors, has transformed a boy into a man of steel. Fadnavis has floored his enemies in the BJP with a perfect sense of political maneuvering, tricked fence sitters to his side, and worked his charm on leaders from other parties to make the BJP their home. It won’t be wrong if we say he has been hugely successful in shedding the label of a Vidarbha-specific leader and gaining himself a pan-Maharashtra acceptance. Some may say the BJP topped mainly because of its performance in Vidarbha, but then statistics show that the party has also gained immensely in western/southern Maharashtra where the Congress and NCP have been ruling the roost.
Walking with all
What pushed Fadnavis’ status up further was the failure of a CM aspirant Pankaja Munde, who lost her hometown to the NCP. Like Munde, many others in the party would take Fadnavis for granted and at times take him on for no reason, but Fadnavis has been gracious enough to soothe them by stating that electoral defeats were not the only parameter to assess strength of political leaders. In other words, he meant that he would side with individuals who introspect and amend their ways, instead of creating problems for his government that has the blessing of the top leadership like PM Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.
But Fadnavis cannot afford to bask in the glory for long. He will be allowed to bulldoze his ways with a renewed vigour only when he gets the party ahead in major municipal corporations that go to polls next February. Stakes will be as high as Assembly polls in the civic elections of Mumbai and other 11 cities. Fadnavis will be tested unlike before not only in the cities, but also in the rural (zilla parishad and panchayat samiti) polls. It will give Fadnavis an opportunity to reaffirm a slogan “Narendra there, Devendra here” that his die-hard supporters have started mouthing. But BJP supporters should also understand that the governance will be even tougher because, with every win, people start expecting more and more from the party they have voted to power. Expectations go even higher when the opposition becomes a non-entity.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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