As per recent reports, a startling fact has come to light. NCP supremo, Sharad Pawar had placed two conditions to support a BJP government in the state of Maharashtra- firstly, the appointment of his daughter, Supriya Sule as the Union Agriculture Minister, and secondly, the removal of Devendra Fadnavis as the Maharashtra CM, and appointment of some other leader for the top post. Needless to say, PM Modi with whom Pawar had held a meeting turned down both the conditions.
The second demand was rather peculiar and lays bare Pawar’s insecurities. Peculiar because there is no normal reason to uproot the political brand of Fadnavis. Though it is usual for a political outfit to demand a portfolio for a particular individual, animosity to exclude someone from a particular position is quite rare.
What makes this even more intriguing is the fact that Fadnavis was a pretty non-controversial figure throughout his tenure as the Maharashtra CM. Why did Pawar then insist on Fadnavis’ removal? The answer, therefore, lies in the septuagenarian’s political insecurities.
The Maharashtra CM enjoyed an unblemished track record and became only the second Maharashtra CM after 47 years to complete a full term in office. His non-controversial, pro-development image left little political space for his opponents. A second tenure would have given me a major shot in the arm and this what made his political opponents, including the NCP supremo mortally afraid of the former Maharashtra CM. They decided to get together and bring him down by deceit, as he had to be removed for the three political parties- the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the Congress, to remain relevant in Maharashtra. They recognised that they must uproot him by hook or by crook. The entire political showdown there was in a way staged for Fadnavis. While the BJP knew that the immediate political object was to protect him, the biggest political aim of the rest of the political players was to somehow topple him.
Fadnavis successfully completed his entire tenure, which in itself is a significant achievement in Maharashtra politics, and in addition to that, he still enjoys an untainted image of a Vikas Purush. Moreover, his corruption-free track record has been in stark contrast to the NCP and the Congress regimes of the past, and this would have particularly made Pawar dreadful of Fadnavis.
Fadnavis is a Maratha Brahmin and the left-liberals had raised apprehensions about his caste, in fact, he had drawn a lot of flak over him being a Brahmin, from the usual suspects when he first occupied the office of Maharashtra CM. But over time his social engineering skills drew a lot of attention, as he was able to unite the Brahmins, Bahujans and Marathas under one umbrella showing his political prowess. This further complicated the fears of his political opponents, and particularly the NCP chief who realised that Fadnavis’ popularity is going to be too tough to handle.
And then with a plethora of developmental projects, setting an ambitious aim of making Maharashtra the first Indian state with a trillion-dollar economy by 2025. With massive metro projects such as the Metro Line 3, and ambitious flyovers and highways being constructed at an unprecedented pace, Fadnavis gave the Maharashtra economy a major push.
Fadnavis had become the second-youngest CM of Maharashtra at the age of 44 years in 2014, incidentally, Pawar had become the youngest Chief Minister of Maharashtra at the age of 44 years. However, while Sharad Pawar is today seen as the epitome of corrupt governance in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis enjoys the image of ‘Mr. Clean’ in the state. This in itself would have made the NCP chief really insecure of Fadnavis.
During his tenure, Fadnavis enjoyed popularity even beyond the BJP, and even the Shiv Sena MLAs worked closely with him, reporting directly to him, when he was the Chief Minister. It was rumoured that many Shiv Sena MLAs were more loyal to Fadnavis than the Thackerays. Even after the recent poll results, Fadnavis easily remained the most popular political figure, and 35 NCP MLAs, along with Ajit Pawar seemed ready to work with him. This obviously came as a huge threat for the NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena coalition in general, and the NCP in particular.
The Maratha quota which was upheld earlier this year by the Bombay High Court, also came as a boost to the massive popularity that Fadnavis already enjoyed. It only strengthened Fadnavis’ social engineering and the poll results manifested that the people of Maharashtra had voted overwhelmingly for a Fadnavis led Mahayuti to come back to power for a second term.
The people of Maharashtra have been betrayed, and their electoral mandate has been circumvented as the three parties in the state have come together to block Fadnavis’ path to Chief Ministership. NCP supremo, Pawar had also approached PM Modi with the intention of getting Fadnavis removed, however, the BJP made it clear that it shall defend him fiercely. Fadnavis was the ultimate target of the political showdown in the state, and both the BJP and its opponents know that.