Is BJP Downsizing Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra?
Two new appointments by the BJP have thrown a spotlight on Fadnavis's influence in the state unit.
Two new appointments by the Bhartiya Janta Parties central leadership in its Maharashtra state unit has caused a stir in the party, throwing a spotlight on former chief minister and current Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis' influence in the party cadre.
The two new appointments in question are that of former state minister and senior leader Vinod Tawde, who has been elevated to National General Secretary, and former Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule, who has been declared a candidate for the Nagpur Legislative Council seat.
The two leaders have been in political exile so far what does their return to power signal?
A Downsize in Power for Fadnavis?
Despite being the single largest party, the BJP has had to remain out of power in Maharashtra. And with the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government completing two years, the BJP may be looking at a change in leadership in the state.
Speaking to The Quint, a senior leader of BJP’s state unit said that the central leadership has given Devendra Fadnavis complete freedom in the state but despite that, there have been no concrete results.
In 2019, the Maharashtra Assembly elections were fought under the leadership of Fadnavis. Despite an alliance with Shiv Sena, BJP seat share fell by 17 seats to 105 (from 122 in 2014).
Fadnavis also failed to handle the strained relations with Shiv Sena over the post of chief minister after the 2019 assembly election results.
What also caused a lasting damage the BJP’s image was the failed attempt to gain power with the help of NCP leader Ajit Pawar, nephew of Sharad Pawar. The 'operation' to form a government with him and have Fadnavis sworn in was carried out overnight but the government did not last for more than 80 hours.
‘Team Devendra’; Factionalism in the State Unit
Senior political journalist Vivek Bhavsar explains that after the leadership of the party went into the hands of Fadnavis, the process of sidelining many strong leaders began. From the start, two major factions of Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari emerged. However, as soon as Fadmavis became CM, he clipped the wings of his rivals.
Eknath Khadse and Pankaja Munde of the Munde faction expressed their displeasure against the party on several occasions, for which Khadse also had to pay a price. While Gadkari supporters Vinod Tawde, Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Ashish Shelar were sidelined.
Leaders who joined from other parties and went to take leadership roles came to be known as “Team Devendra”.
Prasad Lad, who got a seat in the Legislative Council, Praveen Darekar, who was made the Leader of the Opposition, Narayan Rane who became the Union Minister. Harshvardhan Patil, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Dhananjay Mahadik and Jaykumar Gore also became close to Fadnavis as he took up their sugar factory issues at the Centre more frequently.
Upcoming Elections and Caste Factor
Municipal corporation and zilla parishad elections are due in Maharashtra early next year. The polls are being seen as a mini assembly election and if BJP fails to bolster any support against the MVA government, another loss awaits them.
In the recent Zilla Parishad elections held in Nagpur, the Congress bested the BJP too.
Meanwhile, there is anger against the government due to the cancellation of the Maratha reservation and issues over OBC reservations in the state.
In this situation, the BJP is playing the Maratha card by elevating Vinod Tawde and also wooing the OBC communities by making Bawankule as the Nagpur MLC.
Who are Tawde and Bawankule?
Vinod Tawde and Chandrashekhar Bawankule were denied tickets in the 2019 assembly elections. This decision surprised many political analysts. Vinod Tawde was active in the BJP while he was a student.
From the post of General Secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) to Mumbai President and Leader of the Legislative Council, he has held many responsibilities in the saffron party.
Despite this, during the tenure of Fadnavis government, he was given the second and third line of ministries.
Bawankule started his political journey with BJP in the 1990s. He is known to be a staunch supporter of Nitin Gadkari and has held the responsibilities as the President of the District Unit of Nagpur, Secretary of the State and then in-charge of Vidarbha.
A popular figure in the Teli Samaj of the OBC community, he was not fielded in the 2019 East Vidarbha polls, resulting in a loss in 10 out of 11 seats.
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