Did BJP know that this was coming? Perhaps not. The tussle over the Maharashtra Chief Minster’s post is gradually becoming more evident within BJP. The party MLAs are going to meet on Oct 28 to elect the CM, but even two days prior to it there’s hasn’t been any clear indication on the possible choice. Frontrunners such as Nitin Gadkari, Eknath Khadse and Devendra Fadnavis are being frequently named in the political discourse of the state and lobbying is on full swing.
BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar had been lobbying for Gadkari by calling him “the unanimous choice” of the party’s Maharashtra unit. Mungantiwar is also claiming that Devendra Fadnavis himself supports Gadkari’s candidature. Eknath Khadse, another BJP strongman vying for the CM post, has garnered enough support from his loyalists who recently launched a ‘padyatra’ campaign to demand chief ministership for him.
The Khadse supporters are doing their bit to convince BJP bigwigs by portraying him as the most experienced and eligible face of the party in Maharashtra. The supporters are strengthening their pitch by stating that there never had been any Chief Minister from north Maharashtra. Sidelining the essential requirements such as capability and efficiency, they are now putting more emphasis on the fact that this is a chance for the BJP do to justice to the people of North Maharashtra.
However, there are some challenges about all these contenders for Maharashtra CM that the party can’t be oblivious of.
The idea of giving the CM’s job to Fadnavis is somewhat fraught with a unique problem. The caste calculus might come into play as BJP has already supported upper caste individuals and given them important portfolios at the Centre. Choosing Fadnavis would mean that the party will be favouring yet another Brahmin for the most important leadership job in the state.
Gadkari, reportedly, isn’t very keen on becoming the CM as he is “very happy in Delhi.” Although he ruled himself out of the race, he would like to see his associate Sudhir Mungantiwar appointed as CM. That way, Gadkari would maintain his clout when it comes to controlling Maharashtra politics. Although Khadse could be a safe bet for the party, not just for his years of experience, but for the fact that he belongs to an OBC community, his prospect of becoming CM seems thin since he has already raised concerns about his ill health.
With a slew of contenders for the CM’s post, what is the PM Modi’s stand regarding this? Modi, in all probability, will root for Fadnavis. Considered as a “young and dynamic development face” of the party, the party sees enough potential in Fadnavis to connect with people across all income groups.
If media reports are to be believed, both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah would “want their man” in command in Maharashtra so that the party is able to garner support of industrialists. Integrity and sincerity, which Fadnavis is known for, will work to BJP’s advantage. As for Gadkari, Modi would prefer to have him in the union cabinet.