Fadnavis' CM dream might be over as Maha BJP springs Gadkari surprise

In a big surprise, on Wednesday, former state BJP president and a member of the party core committee Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the party leaders wanted see senior BJP leader and union minister Nitin Gadkari at the helm of the government in the state.

Vishwas Waghmode October 22, 2014 11:05:32 IST
Fadnavis' CM dream might be over as Maha BJP springs Gadkari surprise

Mumbai: Even as the BJP has taken a break and decided to choose the leader of its legislative party in Maharashtra after Diwali, a cold war has begun within the state BJP over who will become the state’s chief minister. So far, state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis was being touted as the front-runner for the top post of the BJP-led government in Maharashtra.

In a big surprise, on Wednesday, former state BJP president and a member of the party core committee Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the party leaders wanted see senior BJP leader and union minister Nitin Gadkari at the helm of the government in the state. "We are surprised that Gadkari has said he doesn't want to be in the state. Party leaders feel that he should return to the state and head the government. He is the most capable due to his administrative experience," said Mungantiwar.

Fadnavis CM dream might be over as Maha BJP springs Gadkari surprise

Nitin Gadkari seems to be the favourite among a section of BJP leaders as the next Maharashtra chief minister. PTI

It has come as a big blow to Fadnavis, who was tipped to be the next chief minister, as Mungantiwar is a close aide of union minister Nitin Gadkari.

Gadkari had recently said that he was happy to work in Delhi and was not looking to go back to the state. "I am happy in Delhi and I like the work I am doing here. I have already said that I don't want to go to Maharashtra,” Gadkari had said earlier.

Apart from Mungantiwar, other members of the BJP’s core committee excluding Fadnavis have backed Gadkari’s candidature for the top post. "All the contenders for the top post will play their cards in the last moment. There is no surprise in it. Let’s see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes a call on it,” said a BJP leader requesting anonymity.

At present, apart from Gadkari, the state BJP has three contenders for the chief minister’s post that include state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis, former leader of opposition in assembly Eknath Khadse and former leader of opposition in legislative council Vinod Tawde. Among them, Fadnavis was tipped to be the front runner after BJP chief Amit Shah said that Fadnvis would lead the assembly election campaign.

Sources in the BJP said that if Gadkari doesn’t return to Maharashtra, then Mungantiwar could emerge as the dark horse in the race for the top post. Also, Gadkari and Mungantiwar enjoy larger support of the Sangh pariwar than Fadnavis, claimed sources.

While Fadnavis is 44 with no ministerial experience, he has been an MLA since 1999. His analytic acumen, political lineage, thorough knowledge of Maharashtra's economics, mass appeal and clean image are on his side.

On the other hand, Mungantiwar, 51, is a senior BJP legislator who has also served as a minister in the Sena-BJP government. He belongs to the Komthi community, and taking caste equations into account, party sources said would be far more acceptable than Fadnavis.

Party sources said that Khadse, the party’s senior most leaders in the state, is likely to put his weight behind Mungantiwar. "Fadnavis is too young and inexperienced for the job. Since he is a Brahmin from Nagpur, it is also perceived to be a threat to other senior leaders," said a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity, added that too much buzz created around Fadnavis seems to be working against him.

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