2:19 am - Wednesday September 26, 2018

Devendra Fadnavis leads BJP’s Maharashtra Chief Ministerial race

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MUMBAI: Squeaky clean image, his willingness to put in 15-hour work days and the skill to steer clear of controversies may have made 44-year-old Devendra Fadnavis the BJP’s chief ministerial choice in Maharashtra, according to highly-placed party sources.

Sure, a lot hinges upon the numbers that Sunday will throw up, but insiders say that by voting for Fadnavis, a Brahmin, BJP would also be signaling that it is no longer anxious of being projected as “Shetji-Bhatji” party.Caste plays a huge factor in Maharashtra politics with most of the CMs hailing from the powerful Maratha community. There has only been one Brahmin CM till date, Manohar Joshi.

Incidentally, the Shiv Sena leader ascended to Mantralaya the only time the saffron combine came to power. At that time, the caste calculus was maintained by BJP when it made Gopinath Munde the Deputy CM. Earlier reports pitched the late Munde’s daughter Pankaja as a dark horse for the top job, but sources Fadnavis – considered very close to RSS – seems to have made the cut because of a combination of factors.
But if BJP falls short of numbers and it has to approach the Sena, then the latter could insist Pankaja be made the CM, said Yuvraj Mohite, a political analyst. On Friday, while speaking to reporters at her home in Worli in Mumbai, Pankaja said that she is willing to approach the Sena for support if the party falls short of numbers.
She also told a TV channel that ‘those who wanted my father to be the CM and the youth of the state’ want her to become the CM. “Her statements have taken a not so subtle change ever since the campaigning began. She is slowly showing her hand,” said Mohite.
Political analyst Kumar Ketkar felt that the BJP may not face any immediate problem in having Fadnavis as the CM. “However the reverberations would be felt at the local level from Maratha groups like the Sambhaji Brigade and Chava Sanghatana,” he told ET. Fadnavis also belongs to the Vidarbha region where the party sought votes on the issue of giving a separate statehood to the region if voted to power.
“If Fadnavis is made CM, then we don’t need to go for creating a separate state as the main reason for the demand of creating a separate state of Vidarbha is lack of development,” said a BJP leader.

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