Published On : Fri, Feb 24th, 2017

Devendra Fadnavis: Rise from Vidarbha Lightweight to Maharashtra Satrap

Vilasrao Deshmukh was a Marathwada leader, Ashok Chavan is a Nanded chieftan, Sushil Kumar Shinde is a Sholapur satrap and Pawars rule western Maharashtra. But this civic poll makes Devendra Fadnavis a pan-Maharashtra leader: that’s how a state BJP leader summed up his party’s performance in the civic body elections.

Over 100 hoardings dot the skyline of Mumbai — all with one single message ‘Ha Majha Shabda Ahe’ which means ‘This Is My word’.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had made these civic body polls a referendum on himself and his government of one-and-a-half years. A popular joke in Mumbai over the last few months was — it’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s just Fadnavis.

Members of Fadnavis’s team tell News18 of how the 44-year-old captain steered the campaign, leading from the front. “During the selection of candidates, he merely played the coordinator giving full autonomy to city leaders,” says Mumbai BJP leader Hitesh Jain. In the Sangh’s spiritual heartland of Nagpur, he let senior colleague Nitin Gadkari pick the candidates. “Fadnavis gave Gadkari Nagpur but took Maharashtra for himself,” quips a party leader who was in the know.

Sources privy to the aborted seat-sharing talks recall how the non-abrasive Fadnavis pushed for an alliance with the Shiv Sena till the last minute. But when word came from New Delhi – PM Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and state pointsperson Nitin Gadkari — that the BJP wanted to go it alone, Fadnavis took up the challenge.

“The Shiv Sena was taunting the BJP, a national party, and giving us just 60 seats. Let’s show them,” he would often tell his BJP colleagues who were used to playing second fiddle to Thackeray’s party for over two decades. He would often quote a survey to convince them that the BJP was winning — how, where and when this survey happened, nobody ever knew.

For six months, Fadnavis extensively researched on every city and every ward, coming up with a new plan for every corporation. His post-graduation in business management often comes in handy in political management and this time too he ensured that the issues in each corporation were specific. For Mumbai, for instance, it was about transparency, road, waste disposal and water management.

What also made a huge difference was his ability to take Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray head on, says a team member, adding that through this election, the BJP has found a toe hold among all communities — Marathas, Gujaratis, Jains, North Indians, Christians — and not identify itself with just one community.

Maharashtra has also become the first state where the Opposition and the ruling space both is completely saffronised. An only parallel is in Tamil Nadu where the two Dravidian parties, DMK and the AIADMK, have carved up the entire political space.

Maharashtra has also become the first state where the Opposition and the ruling space both is completely saffronised. An only parallel is in Tamil Nadu where the two Dravidian parties, DMK and the AIADMK, have carved up the entire political space.

From a relative lightweight in Vidarbha who was picked by Modi-Shah to lead Maharashtra after the state polls in 2014, it’s been a quick journey to the stratosphere for Fadnavis. There were snide remarks that he was picked for his RSS pedigree and Brahmin lineage, and not for his political skill. There was scepticism on how a clean, non-abrasive politician would last the rough and tumble of Maharashtra politics. When he retires to his iPhone and books to wear off the poll fatigue, Fadnavis can feel assured that he has laid all that to rest. A state satrap has been born today.

By Marya Shakil as Published in CNN-News18