Devendra Fadnavis elected Maha legislature party chief; will stake claim to form govt

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 28 2014, 23:40pm hrs
Devendra fadnavisFadnavis was elected leader of the BJP Legislature Party at a meeting of the newly-elected MLAs. (PTI)
Devendra Fadnavis was today elected the leader of the BJP Legislature Party in Maharashtra, paving the way for his appointment as the first party chief minister of the state.

The name of Fadnavis, state BJP president, was proposed by Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly Eknath Khadse and seconded by his counterpart in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde, and members of the party's core group Sudhir Mungantiwar and Pankaja Munde.

The resolution proposing 44-year-old Fadnavis as the leader of the Legislature Party was unanimously approved by the newly elected MLAs in the presence of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra J P Nadda, who were appointed central observers for the elction.

Fadnavis, accompanied by other members of state BJP Core Committee, will call on Governor C Vidyasagar Rao at Raj Bhavan at 6.30 pm to formally stake claim to form his government.

The new government will be sworn in at a ceremony at Wankhede Stadium on October 31 in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several of his Cabinet colleagues and Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states.

Though Fadnavis, with his RSS roots and backing of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, was a clear frontrunner for the coveted post ever since BJP emerged as the single largest party in the state for the first time, several seniors had thrown their hat into the ring.

However, the BJP national leadership ensured that all came on board to back the fourth-term MLA from Nagpur, who has a clean public image.

Khadse, party's powerful leader in North Maharashtra, who had demanded that somebody from the region be made CM, Mungantiwar, who had pitched for Union Minister and former BJP president Nitin Gadkari for the post, and Pankaja Munde, daughter of influential OBC leader late Gopinath Munde, all proposed or seconded name of Fadnavis for the top job.

In a state dominated by Maratha politics and politicians, Fadnavis is only the second Brahmin after BJP's estranged ally Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi to become Chief Minister.

Fadnavis, whom Modi had described as "Nagpur's gift to the country" at an election rally, had headed BJP in the state when it posted most impressive performances in both Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

Together with Shiv Sena and Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha, the saffron alliance had won 42 of the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats. BJP had clinched 23 seats, while Sena won 18.

Despite its bitter separation from Sena just ahead of the Assembly election, BJP won 122 seats in the 288-member House, up from 46 in 2009, and emerged as the largest party. Fadnavis earned the appreciation of both Modi and Shah for the way he handled the election.

(Profile) From an obscure corporator to becoming the youngest Mayor of Nagpur, to the first BJP Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis' climb up the political ladder has been steady.

In a state dominated by Maratha politics and politicians, the 44-year-old leader, with deep roots in RSS, is only the second Brahmin after BJP's estranged ally Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi to become Chief Minister.

The soft spoken and portly young leader was a clear favourite for the coveted post through the intense lobbying by a clutch of leaders from BJP's state Core Committee after it emerged as the single largest party but always looked certain to clinch it, largely due to the confidence he enjoys of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah.

"Devendra is Nagpur's gift to the country," Modi had said of him at an election rally.

Though Modi had launched a presidential-style campaign blitzkrieg in Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls, a portion of the credit also went to Fadnavis, state BJP President, for the party's unprecedented victories in both.

Together with Shiv Sena and Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha, the saffron alliance had won 42 of the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats.

Despite its bitter separation with Sena just ahead of the Assembly election, BJP won 122 seats in the 288-member House, up from 46 in 2009. Fadnavis earned the appreciation of both Modi and Shah for the way he handled the election.

Son of Jan Sangh and later BJP leader late Gangadhar Fadnavis, whom his fellow Nagpur politician and former party Chief Nitin Gadkari calls his "political guru", Devendra cut his teeth in politics at a young age when he joined Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students wing of RSS, in 1989.

At 22, he became a corporator in the Nagpur civic body and its youngest Mayor in 1997 at the age of 27.

Fadnavis contested his first Assembly election in 1999 and won. There was no looking back for the strong proponent of a separate Vidarbha state as he won three subsequent Assembly elections. He currently represents Nagpur South West seat in the House.

Unlike many leaders across the political spectrum in Maharashtra, Fadnavis has remained untainted by accusations of corruption.

Clearly one of the most articulate of top Maharashtra politicians, Fadnavis is also credited with pushing the previous Congress-NCP government into a corner over the alleged irrigation scam, which many allege is primarily responsible for the spate of suicide by farmers in the parched Vidarbha region.

The Vidarbha cause was so close to his heart that during a debate on a separate state he once angrily told "chalte waha (get out of Vidarbha)" to Shiv Sena MLAs, then an ally of BJP.

Shiv Sena has been consistently opposing division of Maharashtra to create Vidarbha state.

However, Fadnavis toned down his pro-Vidarbha rhetoric during the Assembly poll campaign when BJP was accused by Sena of contemplating splitting the state if voted to power, saying though the party favoured smaller states for administrative efficiency, creation of new states was within the purview of the Centre.

Fadnavis holds a degree in law and post-graduate degree in Business Management and has written two books on economics.

Unlike some of those whose names were doing the rounds for chief ministership like Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Assembly Eknath Khadse and former state BJP Chief Sudhir Mungantiwar, Fadnavis never held any ministerial position.

Amid the jockeying for the top post, Fadnavis' detractors had highlighted lack of administrative experience in order to edge him out of the race.

However, armed with a clean public image and solid backing from Modi-Shah combine, the young leader from Nagpur, from where RSS runs its writ over the larger saffron family, cleared all hurdles to emerge the winner.