Moving over sub-CM clash, Fadnavis turns a new page and targets 2024 polls
The last minute twist of the Maharashtra political drama on Thursday which saw the BJP high command forces Devendra Fadnavis to join government led by rebel leader Shiv Sena Eknath Shinde as deputy chief minister might have shocked Fadnavis and his legion of supporters in the BJP state, but he seems to have already left it behind to move on to setting new goals for himself and the BJP State. This was evident on Friday evening when in a closed meeting of BJP MPs, Fadnavis, while accepting their greetings and congratulatory bouquets, urged them to start preparing for the Lok Sabha polls. and the Assembly scheduled for 2024.
The astonishing decision by the central BJP leadership to let Shinde, the leader of 39 rebel Sena MPs, take over as CM with Fadnavis as his deputy despite the saffron party being the largest party with 106 MPs in the 288-member House, however was not well received by the party base in the state. This was reflected in the state’s BJP celebrations, which were low-key with photos of Union Home Minister Amit Shah missing from his posters at various locations.
If Maharashtra BJP insiders are to be believed, the resentment of much of the party’s workers is centered not so much on the “sacrifice” of the CM post as on the perceived “humiliation” inflicted on their leader “Apla Devendra (Our Devendra)”. They claim that the eleventh-hour high command “diktat” ordering Fadnavis to be sworn in as Shinde’s deputy is “unlikely to be forgotten or forgiven” from Its implications are clear: the BJP leadership will have to explain to its cadres in the coming days the “long-term objective” behind this drastic action plan.
BJP Head of State Chandrakant Patil said, “The party feels the huge sacrifice Fadnavis had to make for the overall interest of the party. Everyone knows he was the CM candidate. But when it was conveyed to him, Shinde is the next CM, he easily accepted. He showed generosity by accepting the position of Deputy CM.
Former Nagpur Mayor Sandeep Joshi sent a moving letter praising Fadnavis’ sacrifice, calling it “ideal for every karyakarta (party worker)” while stating that “our respect and love for Fadnavis has increased a thousand times more”.
The BJP leadership’s decision to install Shinde as the CM is said to be part of his larger game plan to make “deeper inroads into Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena support base” across the state. The party’s immediate objective is to wrest the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) from control of the Sena in the next municipal elections.
Those in the BJP who justify Fadnavis’ secondary position in the new dispensation say that with only half a term remaining in government, the party should “not admit the opposition to power”. At the same time, to achieve administrative results, the inclusion of Fadnavis in Shinde’s ministry was deemed necessary, they claim. The BJP has set itself the target of winning 32-35 seats in Lok Sabha out of a total of 48 in the general elections and its own majority with over 145 seats in the Assembly polls. These goals may be ambitious, but some BJP strategists believe now is the time to achieve them, as the Sena and Congress have weakened significantly. However, a state section of the BJP does not seem convinced by such explanations.
Some BJP state leaders have even blamed Fadnavis’ “reduction” in stature as a consequence of central leadership’s “growing discomfort” with his rise as leader. They also claimed that Fadnavis’ party rivals who were sidelined during his tenure as CM from 2014 to 2019, when Shinde was a minister in his cabinet, also “influenced” the decision of the high command.