Irked Devendra Fadnavis meets Amit Shah in Delhi, could get more powers in Maharashtra

June 07,2024

A day after Devendra Fadnavis offered to resign as Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister following the Lok Sabha election results, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader met home minister Amit Shah in Delhi on Thursday, where he discussed issues that led to the party’s disappointing performance in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP won only nine seats in the state, compared with 23 in the 2019 elections. The ruling Mahayuti alliance, comprising the BJP, Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), won just 17 of the state’s 48 seats.

According to party insiders, Fadnavis told the BJP central leadership that its failure to change sitting MPs, lack of coordination between the three Mahayuti partners, and the delayed process of finalising the alliance’s seat sharing were the factors that led to the debacle.

The 53-year-old also expressed his dismay over the interference by the central leadership in picking the candidates in Maharashtra. He feels it led to the party’s defeat in many constituencies, including Nandurbar, Dhule, Sangli, and Dindori. Fadnavis was especially unhappy with the decisions taken by BJP general secretary Vinod Tawde, who played a key role in changes in the candidature, a BJP leader said.

Minutes after Fadnavis’ announcement on Wednesday, his close confidante and BJP leader Mohit Kamboj Bharatiya took to X and highlighted how the rift within the party was responsible for its performance. “BJP Maharashtra & BJP Mumbai need to have reality check! Who is going to take responsibility of this defeat? Sirf Ek Adami Ki Line Chhoti Karneke ke Chakkar Mein Party Ka Nuksan Kiya (The party lost out just because of the efforts put in to cut one person down to the size),” the post stated. According to BJP leaders, Bharatiya was hinting at Tawde’s interference in decisions by the state unit.

Fadnavis is also believed to have expressed that the state leadership was not keen on joining hands with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray ahead of the polls and re-inducting NCP (SP) legislator Eknath Khadse into its fold.

“Both Raj Thackeray and Khadse were in direct touch with the central leadership, without taking leaders into confidence,” a BJP minister said. “The state unit was not keen on joining hands with Thackeray as it disturbed the north Indian vote bank and helped only the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena in diverting votes. The BJP’s local unit in Jalgaon was against Khadse’s induction, which would have affected the party’s prospects in the constituency. Fadnavis is upset over these decisions.”

Although his resignation is unlikely to be accepted, party leaders from Maharashtra believe it could result in him getting more freedom to operate at the state level. The resignation was also a move to reinforce his importance in the state unit and pre-empt any attack on him within the party, they said.

“He has killed many birds with one stone. After his announcement, the entire state unit stood by him and requested him not to resign. His camp has trained its guns at his detractors within the party and, at the same time, evoked deliberations over the issues within the ruling alliance as well,” a BJP leader said.

Leaders from the ruling combine believe that by threatening to quit the state cabinet, Fadnavis has also tried to score over chief minister Shinde and deputy CM Ajit Pawar. “The simmering bickering between the three leaders is no secret. Fadnavis is unhappy with many decisions the CM took, especially related to the home department. Shinde’s closeness with Amit Shah is another bone of contention for BJP’s state leadership as it gave strength to the CM to assert his position. Fadnavis’ announcement may work in his favour in building pressure on the other two,” said a minister requesting anonymity.

Maharashtra BJP leaders believe a change in the deputy CM post is unlikely since there is no alternative to Fadnavis to lead the party in the assembly elections, especially in the backdrop of the drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls. “Barring this election, Fadnavis’ performance in all the polls fought under his leadership for the last 10 years have been impressive, be it general or local body elections. Holding a key position in the government and, especially, leading the home department helps in election management. A change in guard will disturb these equations and hurt the party’s prospects in the assembly elections,” a party leader said.

If the BJP leadership puts its foot down and decides to appoint a new deputy CM, it could be rural development minister Girish Mahajan, who is considered a close confidante of Fadnavis, the party leader added. While this is unlikely to happen, Mahajan fits the bill because he is an OBC, while Shinde and Pawar are Marathas. He’s also among the senior-most ministers and is a hardcore party worker with a good performance in the Lok Sabha polls.