Maharashtra BJP president Devendra Fadnavis is emerging as the front runner for the post of Chief Minister in the event of the party leading the next government in the State, which is increasingly a possibility now, party sources told The Hindu.
The 42-year-old leader from Nagpur, the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has the right ideological credentials and pedigree — his father, Gangadharrao Fadnavis, was an active Sangh leader.
A Brahmin, Mr. Fadnavis fits well in the emerging power matrix within the party also. In a strong indication of his increasing prominence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a meeting in Nagpur early this week that Mr. Fadnavis was a leader of national prominence.
Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde, party leaders in the Lower and Upper Houses of the State, respectively, are also aspirants for the post, but Mr. Fadnavis has left them behind, BJP sources said. Mr. Khadse, a five-time MLA, is an experienced hand, but is troubled by health concerns, while Mr. Tawde, until now a member of the Legislative Council, is contesting his first Assembly election.
Mr. Khadse belongs to the Other Backward Castes and Mr. Tawde is a Maratha, two social groups that dominate Maharashtra politics. But being a Brahmin is working in favour of Mr. Fadnavis.
Modi may back Fadnavis for CM
While Maharashtra BJP president Devendra Fadnavis is emerging as front runner for Chief Minister should the party lead the next government in the State, the party remains non-committal. “The BJP builds new leadership by giving opportunity to capable people. From Uma Bharati and Kalyan Singh to Raman Singh and Anandiben Patel, the party gave opportunity to people who proved their leadership abilities,” said Shrikant Sharma, BJP national secretary. “We have several leaders in Maharashtra, one of whom will become the CM.”
Mr Modi would prefer a person who will be dependent on him – which Mr Fadnavis, devoid of a formidable caste base, will be. Mr Fadnavis is reportedly not on good terms with union minister and fellow Nagpurian, Nitin Gadkari.
A stronger Mr Fadnavis will bring about a new balance of power in Maharashtra to Mr Gadkari’s disadvantage that the central leadership of the party may like. Articulate, polyglot and commanding a clean image, Mr Fadnavis could fit well in the Modi scheme of politics, according to the sources.