A last minute twist in the Maharashtra political drama on Thursday which saw BJP senior leadership forces Devendra Fadnavis to join Shiv Sena rebel government As Deputy Chief Minister, Vadnavis and his legion of BJP supporters in the state may have shocked, but it seems he has already left it to move on to setting new goals for himself and the BJP. This was demonstrated on Friday night, when Fadnavis urged them during a closed-door meeting of the BJP MLAs, while accepting their greetings and bouquets of congratulations, to begin preparing for the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in 2024.
The astonishing move of the BJP Central Command to allow Shinde, the leader of 39 rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army, took over as CM With Fadnavis as his deputy, although the Saffron Party is the largest single party with 106 MLAs in the 288-member House of Representatives, it does not align well with the party’s rank in the state. This was reflected in the state Bharatiya Janata festivities, which were low-key with images of Federal Home Minister Amit Shah missing from his posters in various places.
If BJP insiders in Maharashtra are to be believed, the discontent of a large section of the party’s workers is not so much on the “sacrifice” of the post of Prime Minister as so much on the perceived “humiliation” of their leader “Abla Devendra (Devendra)” . They claim that the “dictations” of the Eleventh Hour High Command ordering Vadnavis to be sworn in as Shendah’s deputy are “not likely to be forgotten or forgiven” anytime soon. Its implications are clear: the BJP leadership will have to explain to its cadre in the coming days the “long-term goal” behind this tough action plan.
State BJP Chairman Chandrakant Patel says, “The party believed that the huge sacrifice that Vadnavis had to make was for the greater good of the party. Everyone knew he was the cabinet candidate. But when Shinde was transferred to him he is the next CM immediately agreed. He He showed a big heart by accepting the position of Deputy Prime Minister.”
The former mayor of Nagpur, Sandeep Joshi, released an emotional message praising Vadnavis’ sacrifice, calling him a “perfect for every Kariyakarta (party worker)” while declaring that “our respect and love for Vadnavis has increased a thousand times more”.
The BJP leadership decision to inaugurate Shendi CM is also said to be part of its larger game plan to make a “deeper penetration into Sena’s support base led by Uddhav Thackeray” across the state. The party’s immediate objective is to wrest the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) from Sena’s control in the upcoming civilian elections.
Those in the BJP who justify Vadnavis’ secondary position in the new exemption maintain that with only half of the government’s term remaining, the party should “should not tolerate anti-incumbency”. At the same time, to provide administrative findings, it was believed that Fadnavis’ inclusion in Shinde’s ministry was necessary, they say. The BJP has set targets to win 32-35 seats in the Lok Sabha out of a total of 48 seats in the general election and a majority with over 145 seats in the assembly polls. These goals may be ambitious, but some BJP strategists believe it is time to achieve them with the Sena and Congress largely weak. However, a section of the BJP does not appear to be convinced by such explanations.
Some BJP leaders in the state have even accused Vadnavis’ “downgrading” of his status as a result of the “growing unease” of the central leadership over his rise as a leader. They also claimed that Vadnavis’ party rivals who were marginalized during his tenure as prime minister during the 2014-19 period, when Shinde was a minister in his cabinet, may also have “influenced” the decision of the top leadership.