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Devendra Fadnavis makes stunning comeback in Maharashtra

PTI Mumbai | Updated on November 23, 2019 Published on November 23, 2019

Newly-sworn in Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis shakes hands with his Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, in Mumbai, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.   -  PTI

There were not many people at Raj Bhavan Friday morning when he was sworn in as Maharashtra Chief Minister for the second time, but the fact that 49-year-old Devendra Fadnavis managed to occupy the hot seat for the second time against all odds says something about his tenacity.

When he first became the Chief Minister in 2014, it was in a public ceremony at the sprawling Wankhede Stadium in south Mumbai, in presence of his mother, wife, daughter and thousands of BJP workers and supporters. At Friday’s ceremony, which opposition Congress dubbed a clandestine affair after a night of intriguing political developments, the pomp and grandeur of the 2014 event was missing.

Also read: Devendra Fadnavis sworn in as Maharashtra CM; Ajit Pawar deputy CM

After results of the October 21 Assembly elections were announced on October 24, Fadnavis was all set to return as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, after steering the BJP to another electoral win and dealing the NCP-Congress a blow, but bickering ally Shiv Sena played spoilsport.

The Nagpur-born BJP leader has become the first non-Congress Chief Minister to win a second term in office in the state, and only the second Chief Minister to complete his term in office.

The poll victory in Maharashtra for India’s main ruling party was not as decisive as it was hoping for. The BJP, which contested 164 seats, bagged 105, while the Shiv Sena won 56 in the 288-strong Assembly but the alliance fell apart after the Sena insisted on sharing the CM’s post.

Political career

Devendra Fadnavis is a law graduate from Nagpur University and holds a postgraduate degree in business management. He was born and raised in Nagpur, home of the headquarters of the RSS. His father Gangadhar Fadnavis was associated with the RSS and hence young Devendra was influenced with the RSS ideology.

Starting his political career in the 1990s, Fadnavis was an elected member in the Nagpur Municipal Corporation for two consecutive terms — in 1992 and 1997. He was also the youngest mayor of Nagpur, and the second youngest mayor in India. He has represented the Nagpur-South West seat in the state Assembly since 1999.

It was perhaps his close equation with the RSS that helped Fadnavis navigate the troubled waters of Maharashtra politics.

Fadnavis had a smooth run in his first outing as the Chief Minister, having been given a free hand by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.

With the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha polls and in the state elections, Fadnavis proved his credentials as a political leader who has left his political rivals behind in his rise to the top, said party insiders.

He inducted senior Congress leaders Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Harshvardhan Patil and a host of top NCP leaders into the BJP, pushing the opposition camp, already down and out after successive defeats in the Lok Sabha polls, into the defensive ahead of the elections. The NCP won 54 seats and the Congress 44 in the polls.

‘Man of action’

Political observers describe Devendra Fadnavis as a patient listener and a “man of action” with extensive knowledge in various spheres. He is also known as a politician who is both erudite and popular with the people.

His first five-year tenure was marked by several pluses: the Maratha reservation, the Jalyukt Shivar water conservation scheme, the Nagpur-Mumbai knowledge corridor, farm loan waiver and expansion of the Metro rail network.

The Maratha quota agitation threatened the survival of his government, but Fadnavis reached out to the protesters and announced setting up of the State Backward Class Commission to get the demand for reservation in jobs and education ratified and enacted a legislation. Similarly, instead of giving the loan waiver amount to banks, he assured that the the money was transferred directly into the accounts of farmers.

With the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana attacking the government frequently through its editorials, relations between the partners reached a breaking point in the run up to the Mumbai civic polls, which prompted NCP chief Sharad Pawar to predict collapse of the government.

“Political reality determines what decisions need to be made. Patience is the key,” Fadnavis told PTI in an interaction last month. “When you face challenges, they teach you a lot. I learnt political maturity. Whatever agenda you set yourself...every morning throws up a new challenge and problems. While tackling every new challenge, I learnt that I must not give up my focus on what I propose to do,” he said.

Agenda

Devendra Fadnavis has set his goal in second term of making the state drought free, for which he plans to divert excess rain water from Konkan region to the Godavari valley. He has also proposed to set up a water grid for the perennially parched Marathwada region. He also said his goal is to make the state a ‘one trillion dollar economy’

In the last five years, Fadnavis maintained his image as ‘Mr Clean of BJP’, while deftly handling corruption allegations against some of his ministerial colleagues.

Published on November 23, 2019
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