Message From Maharashtra Ministerial Selections In Union Cabinet: BJP Is Prepared For A Long Grind Under Fadnavis Leadership

by Swarajya Staff - Jul 8, 2021 10:42 AM +05:30 IST
Message From Maharashtra Ministerial Selections In Union Cabinet: BJP Is Prepared For A Long Grind Under Fadnavis LeadershipMaharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. 
Snapshot
  • Ministerial choices from Maharashtra deliver an important message to NCP and the Shiv Sena – the BJP will not compromise as far as the Maharashtra Chief Minister's post is concerned. Just to return to power in the state, Fadnavis will not be sacrificed at the altar of convenience – this has been made loud and clear.

    The MVA government can now last five years, unless it collapses under the weight of its own contradiction.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook a total revamp of his council of ministers on 7 July. This was a long-awaited exercise and the speculations had been rife for several weeks. In the characteristic Modi style, the actual exercise had no links to the speculations, and to call it a reshuffle would be a huge understatement.

Given the enormity of the changes impelled by the Prime Minister, there will obviously be long media discussion on real winners and losers of this exercise.

Naturally in Delhi, many individuals will fit the bill either way. But one less obvious name that squarely fits in the winner category is not in Delhi. In fact, he has been avoiding all possibility of his going to Delhi and has eminently succeeded in his endeavour.

Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra is a big winner of the revamp exercise.

Political circles have been abuzz last few weeks with the Maharashtra government being on shaky grounds. It is no secret that none of the three factions of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in Maharashtra like each other. Their politics and vote bases have several overlaps, which makes it difficult for the MVA to create a pre-poll alliance, as would be expected of a ruling alliance to do in upcoming municipal polls.

Yet the alliance has one common need binding everyone — the need for power and generating resources for their individual survival and flourishing. This one factor has kept the government going, but both Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena (SS) have kept their options open in the recent weeks.

Both the parties have been talking to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on and off to explore if a two-party alliance can be worked out in the state. But both potential allies have one condition — they want to see the back of Devendra Fadnavis. Neither party likes him for he has become the tallest leader in the state after NCP supremo Sharad Pawar in a short span of eight years since assuming the state party president role in 2013.

Fadnavis also tried to dismantle several strongholds of the NCP and SS both politically and administratively while he was the chief minister. His personally popularity remains intact and in fact he has gained in stature as the combative leader of the opposition since November 2019. Both NCP and SS were hoping to see him in Delhi, opening the discussions in the state for an arrangement conducive to them.

With the revamp of council of ministers, the door is now shut on a BJP-led or BJP-allied government in Maharashtra. An alliance can no longer accommodate names in Delhi, though some ministers have still retained multiple portfolios. Even then, onboarding another ally soon after such a big revamp won’t be easy at all.

The choice of the ministers dropped as well as inducted from Maharashtra also tells its own tale. Prakash Javadekar, who did a competent job in the Environment Ministry, and acted as the shock absorber against public criticism in the Modi government, has quit.

He is the old-school Maharashtra politician, with a permanent soft corner for SS and no appetite to go against NCP. Sanjay Dhotre, four time Akola Member of Parliament (MP), also had an uneventful stint as Minister of State.

The four new ministers from Maharashtra are all closely linked to Fadnavis. Narayan Rane, ex-chief minister from Shiv Sena, bete noire number one of the current Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and a tall Maratha leader with a real mass base was named on the top of the new induction list and has got a big ministry to manage in Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

Kapil Patil, two time Bhiwandi MP and Dr Bharati Pawar, Dindori MP, were both inducted in the BJP by Fadnavis. The former joined in 2014 and the latter in 2019, both from NCP. Dr Bhagwat Karad, the fourth inclusion, is a long-time organisation man, who used to be close to late Gopinath Munde, also the mentor of Fadnavis.

Rane and Patil both serve constituencies circumscribing SS strongholds in the state. They will bring in more attention to areas where SS expects to gain in local and state polls. Pawar from the Khandesh region and Karad from the Marathwada region bring in heft to areas where the Fadnavis magic had fallen short in the 2019 state polls.

Very importantly, neither Pritam Munde nor Poonam Mahajan found a place in the expanded council of ministers. Pritam’s sister Pankaja and Poonam have not been on best of the terms with Fadnavis and in fact Pankaja had earlier staked claim as potential chief ministerial candidate as well.

These changes in Delhi — the ones which happened and the ones which didn’t — seem not just beneficial for Fadnavis, they almost seem stamped by him.

But the most important message was delivered to the NCP and the SS — the BJP will not compromise as far as the Maharashtra chief minister's post is concerned. Just to return to power in the state, Fadnavis will not be sacrificed at the altar of convenience — this has been made loud and clear.

The MVA government can now last five years, unless it collapses under the weight of its own contradiction.

The one party which may be the most uneasy is Congress. The combative state chief Nana Patole has already announced that Congress will contest local polls alone. If Rahul Gandhi returns to helm the party, he will certainly not want to be seen along with Shiv Sena, either politically or ideologically. The Congress now controls the cards in the state and its strategy will dictate the longevity of the government.

Meanwhile, Devendra Fadnavis can smile and relax. He did not make it to the Modi cabinet and that’s a great win for him.

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