Dharmendra Jore: The migrant who turned Mumbai around
The ruling saffron's blue-eyed boy, CM Fadnavis, has justified his party's faith in him since taking charge
He is fast when he is in the driver's seat, be it mean machines or the state government and party affairs. He gets furious when he is accused of things that he thinks are unwarranted and baseless, but because he doesn't have a politician's ego, as he puts it, he manages to keep cool and play any given situation. Two years in the saddle have taught Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis how to negotiate the highs and lows, and face a bumpy ride, if any, in the days to come.
A class apart
Fadnavis has outshone all his non-BJP predecessors in the past four decades and, at the same time, emerged as a challenge to big shots within his own party. Leading BJP to a stellar performance in the recent mini Assembly elections, in which about 80% of the state's total voters were registered and 65% voted, has surely added some more shine to the crown his high command put on him in October 2014.
What makes Fadnavis stand apart from the present flock of politicians is a combination of things — he is amenable and yet can be resolute when it comes to following his own convictions; he welcomes a suggestion, encourages teamwork but uses his veto when an inner voice tells him that things can go wrong; he weighs every move for its pros and cons, he doesn't shy away from disciplining a team member (some even quit his Cabinet because of it); and he ensures that mistakes, if any, are corrected immediately.
Fadnavis hasn't shied away from expressing regrets as a team leader and protected some of his colleagues despite allegations against them. It seems that he doesn't want to spend his time and energy fighting with party or ministerial colleagues.
Reading it right
His own conviction, coupled with a detailed study of a particular matter or a person, has played a major role in Fadnavis's steady rise in BJP's hierarchy. It was this conviction because of which he could take the Sena head on in Mumbai. He had the city surveyed immediately after the Assembly polls, which showed that the BJP could reach up to 100 seats in the BMC on its own. Repeated surveys — some commissioned by the party and others commissioned by the CM himself (very few in the party knew about such documentations) — prompted a political game that unfolded after January 26, the day Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, an equally resolute opponent, called off their alliance in the BMC.
Confidence in his abilities and faith in party workers was yet another factor that skyrocketed Fadnavis. Such was his confidence that he told this columnist during an interview on a campaign trail in western and southern Maharashtra and Vidarbha that he must note down his (Fadnavis's) prediction in his diary and compare it with the official results.
"Particularly in Mumbai, it will be tough, but the Sena and BJP will get the same numbers, in the range of 80 and 90," he had said. The results in the rest of Maharashtra surpassed even Fadnavis's expectations, and in Mumbai, he was bang on.
The golden city
The entire country had set its sights on Mumbai, where BJP's success story found a place in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign in Uttar Pradesh, which is a parent state to lakhs of migrants in Mumbai. Breaking the pact was a brave decision on part of Thackeray, and exploiting it rested entirely on Fadnavis. The BJP projected the CM as its sole face, a mascot of transparency, development and social equality. Fadnavis was ridiculed as an 'idiotic' migrant who didn't know anything about Mumbai. Questioning the CM's credentials, the Sena wooed North India and Gujarat migrants, who the same party had humiliated up till then by calling them "destroyers of the Marathi pride" and "invaders of the golden city".
BJP's counter move reflected in the results that reaffirmed the city's cosmopolitan nature. The Maximum City's description of cosmopolitan has been confined to the literature, but the 2017 BMC results have established its true sense. A record number of winners represent the classes and masses that did not get enough opportunity in the local self-government of the past despite contributing so much to the city, which is idolised for its work culture and diversity.
Some may say that the results would polarise the city like never before. But there should be no denying that a better thing has happened in giving a voice to the people who were deliberately denied the same so far. And Fadnavis, a non-Mumbaikar, should get the credit for this. Thackeray, now busy installing his mayor without BJP's support, will have ample time to mull over a counter move in the next big elections. He will have to wait for the Lok Sabha polls in the summer of 2019, because a mid-term Assembly poll could still be a mirage.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org