Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will set out on a month-long ‘Vikas Rath Yatra’ across the state in August as part of BJP’s bid to retain power in the upcoming Assembly polls. Saturday’s big announcement comes at a time when the BJP is locked in a tussle with its ally Shiv Sena over who would get to name the next CM if their alliance wins the polls.
Senior BJP leader and state Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said, “In August, the CM will embark on a ‘Vikas Rath Yatra’ to underscore the achievements of the government and interact directly with people.” While saying that the details of the yatra were yet to be worked out, Patil shared that the plan was to cover six Assembly segments every day, and 200 in all.
On Saturday, the state BJP held a crucial meeting in Mumbai when party’s senior office-bearers deliberated on the election strategy for the upcoming state polls, which are due in October. Patil made the announcement immediately after the meeting. Fadnavis was also present at the meeting.
While both allies have sealed a 50:50 seat-sharing formula for the upcoming polls, the Sena, which wants to regain the status of the bigger party in Maharashtra, is also pushing for an “equal sharing” of power (which means sharing of the tenure of the CM’s post, irrespective of the seats). In fact, an editorial in Sena’s mouthpiece, Saamana, on June 21, had said that the “the state’s next CM will be from the Shiv Sena.” But the BJP is not in a mood to budge.
Amid the ongoing tussle, BJP sources said that the CM’s yatra was aimed at projecting Fadnavis’s “leadership” as the face of the saffron combine in the state. “The CM will be at the forefront of the campaign. Since we would be projecting the government’s achievements, other ministers, including those from the Sena, will join the yatra along the way.” While both parties have maintained that the top leadership of the two parties would mutually decide the issue, senior BJP minister Girish Mahajan, on Saturday, fired a salvo at the ally. “Considering the Lok Sabha outcome, it is clear that the BJP is the bigger brother (in the state). Everyone in our party feels that the (next) CM should be from the BJP.” In a further dig, Mahajan said, “We made efforts to ensure Sena’s win in LS constituencies where they were weak.” Patil, however, later said, “Both the parties were working in perfect tandem. Our sole aim is to ensure a win for the combine.” That Fadnavis is being projected as the face of the combine is also clear from the proposed yatra’s tag line. “Phir ek baar Shiv Shahi sarkaar (saffron alliance once again),” said Patil, when asked about the campaign’s tag line.
Meanwhile, the BJP has also coined a new slogan for the state poll — Ab ki baar 220 paar (220 plus this time). Maharashtra has 288 assembly segments. In 2014, when the two allies had split up, the BJP had won 122 seats and the Shiv Sena 63, whereas in the recent LS poll, the saffron combine was ahead in over 230 segments. In the run-up to the polls, Patil also informed that the BJP will embark on a fresh membership drive to recruit 25 lakh more members. The party’s strategists have also decided to reach out to first time voters, females, and the youth. Booth management plans were also reviewed on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in a reach out to drought-stressed families, the party has decided to run a localised campaign for mobilising resources to fund education related expenses of school and college going girls in the parched belts. Meanwhile, state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve, also a Union Minister, hinted that the party will soon name his replacement. With Ashish Shelar inducted as a minister in the Fadnavis government, a new Mumbai BJP chief is also in the offing. On Thursday, some new appointments were announced at the district president’s level.