Two days after what was seen as a show of strength by the Nitin Gadkari camp, the BJP’s central leadership on Thursday cleared the way for state party chief Devendra Fadnavis’s appointment as the next chief minister, giving its nod for the state legislature party meeting on October 27.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Gadkari maintained that he is “very happy in Delhi”. His remarks came after Fadnavis visited him at his residence in Nagpur on Thursday. Speaking to the media later, Gadkari said, “I am very happy in Delhi. I am not interested in returning to Maharashtra… There were some leaders who felt I should become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, but I have often said that I will continue in Delhi.”
Fadnavis maintained a studied silence on the issue.
On Tuesday, 39 of the BJP’s 44 newly-elected MLAs in Vidarbha took a flight from Mumbai to Nagpur and asked Gadkari to take over as the Chief Minister.
“It appears that Gadkari was trying to show his political might in Vidarbha… The gathering of 39 MLAs was designed to show the central party leadership who is the leader of Maharashtra,” said a senior party leader.
“We have already identified three state BJP leaders who were instrumental in projecting Gadkari’s candidature to sabotage Fadnavis’s election to the top post. Both Amit Shah and Narendra Modi have been given a full report on the events in the state over the last 48 hours,” said a senior BJP central functionary.
“The Gadkari camp’s gameplan not only boomeranged, but also tarnished the image of the party,” said a BJP general secretary, adding that it has not gone down well with the rank and file.
Senior state leaders Sudhir Mungantiwar and Vinod Tawde were among the leaders who had voiced their support for Gadkari. Sources said MLC Anil Sole, who is close to Gadkari, was also keen on promoting his candidature.
However, some sources said that Gadkari had categorically told Modi and Shah that he would like to remain in Delhi. “Gadkari is an important leader, and Modi would certainly like to have him in the union cabinet,” said a party leader.
The party leadership decided to field Fadnavis as its young and dynamic “development face” — the star campaigner who could connect with the people across the rural-urban divide. “His integrity, hard work and sincerity would work to the party’s advantage when it makes a historic beginning in Maharashtra administration,” said a party leader.