Fadnavis Still Front-Runner for Chief Ministe: BJP Sources
NEW DELHI : On the sidelines of the BJP and Shiv Sena’s political negotiations over government formation in Maharashtra, hectic lobbying and some political muscle flexing is on over who will be the next chief minister.
After a group of about 40 lawmakers met union minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday, urging him to return from Delhi to lead his home state, sources in the BJP said the party’s 44-year-old state chief Devendra Fadnavis still remains the frontrunner for the post.
A senior leader said while Mr Gadkari has the backing of the top echelons of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor has not sent a message to the party to push the minister’s candidacy.
Like Mr Gadkari, Mr Fadnavis is from Nagpur. And also like him, he has the powerful backing of the RSS, which is headquartered in Nagpur. It was at the RSS’ urging that Mr Fadnavis was chosen last year as the BJP’s president in the state.
In a recent interview to NDTV, Mr Gadkari had said that he was not looking to switch jobs. But sources within the BJP say that the lobbying by his supporters reflects a concern that Mr Gadkari could be over-shadowed on his home turf of Nagpur.
In Nagpur on Tuesday, Mr Gadkari would only say, “I’m happy in Delhi. We will take a decision about the leadership (in Maharashtra) in the next few days. All I can say now is that I’ll play whatever role I am given.”
Both Mr Gadkari and Mr Fadnavis are Brahmins. It’s not hard to see why a veteran might feel upstaged, said sources.In elections held last week in Maharashtra, the BJP won the most seats but does not have an outright majority. The Shiv Sena came in second, but lost all bargaining power when Sharad Pawar’s NCP made a public offer of “unconditional” external support to a BJP government.
As the BJP weighs its options, the process of picking the state’s next chief minister has got delayed. A meeting of the party’s newly-elected legislators on Monday to choose their leader was turned into a party celebration, as central leaders Rajnath Singh and JP Nadda cancelled their visit to observe the process.
BJP sources said an announcement on who will the next chief minister is expected soon.