The political turmoil that led to Uddhav Thackeray’s resignation as Chief Minister and paved the power path for the BJP and Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde has established former CM Devendra Fadnavis as the person in control of political dynamics in the state.
Considered close to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Fadnavis has made amends in how he does politics and vowed to come back to power despite the embarrassment he faced after NCP’s Ajit Pawar ditched him in 2019 despite taking oath as his deputy. However, Fadnavis felt most cheated when Sena joined hands with the NCP and the Congress.
BJP insiders say that while giving a go-ahead for the strategic attempt to return to power, central leaders had asked Fadnavis to ensure that there is no repeat of a failed attempt at government formation like the one in 2019.
Sources close to Fadnavis claim that he had been keeping a close watch over the developments and sentiments of distrust within the Sena. By aiding the disgruntled MLAs in the ruling camp, Fadnavis has also ensured that he emerges as the top leader in the state BJP.
This puts to rest suggestions by other factions in the saffron unit regarding a change in leadership. Placing Maharashtra back into the BJP’s kitty is expected to boost the stature of Fadnavis.
Despite being in Opposition and nursing a bitter relationship with former ally Shiv Sena, Fadnavis maintained a personal rapport and relationship with senior leaders like Eknath Shinde.
“Do you think that rallying 40-odd MLAs behind Shinde was a small feat? Shinde has learnt a lot from Fadnavis when he was the CM. Fadnavis helped leaders across party lines and never let them down. Unlike Thackerays, he was available to them even at odd hours. Shinde did the same. He kept the communication lines open with those who could not get through to the Thackerays. It was a work in progress for almost two years now,” stated a source.
In his first statements to the media after being announced as the new CM, Shinde thanked Fadnavis for support. “Large-heartedness of Fadnavis to make me CM,” he said.
Party sources said that the change of guard in the state was becoming evident with each passing day after the BJP secured the third Rajya Sabha seat in the June 10 election.
Fadnavis’ stature rose when he engineered the cross-voting and the BJP secured one extra seat in Rajya Sabha elections and MLC polls despite not having adequate numbers.
Those who have worked closely with Fadnavis see him as an astute administrator who understands the pulse of his constituents. He was also credited as a good administrator who spent nothing less than 14 to 16 hours a day in ensuring the smooth working of his government when he was in power.
In 2017, as the CM of Maharashtra, Fadnavis announced a Rs 34,000-crore loan waiver with emphasis on marginal farmers. Known to be one of the biggest loan waiver schemes, his move was aimed at clearing outstanding farm loans of up to Rs 1.5 lakh. He also announced a cash incentive for farmers who had shown a good track record of repayment of loans.
“He had a very good acumen to understand issues of farmers. He undertook several farmer friendly issues, including the loan waiver scheme. Another major project was the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan which was a multi-crore water conservation project,” explained Ravikiran Deshmukh, political analyst and former media advisor to the CMO.
Jalyukt Shivar was aimed at making Maharashtra a drought-free state by 2019 with the target of drought-proofing 5,000 villages annually.
“He undertook a number of infrastructure projects in and around Mumbai and is credited for the Nagpur-Mumbai Super Express Communication Highway which is under construction and may open very soon. This is touted to be one of the biggest infrastructure projects for Mumbai conceptualised by Fadnavis,” added Deshmukh.
Mumbai’s growing population and need for better connectivity made the government clear the project for Metro rail. Metro network approvals were the highlight of his tenure and over 100 km in new Metro lines are being laid to give Mumbai one of the best transport networks.
“Mumbai badly needs another international airport and it was under his tenure that the Navi Mumbai international airport foundation stone was laid,” the former CMO official said.