By Quaid Najmi
A day before Maharashtra votes, BJP state president Devendra G. Fadnavis is supremely confident, saying his party is all set to capture power in the state for the first time.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the BJP will form the next government in Maharashtra. We are 100 percent certain of getting a majority,” Fadnavis said in an interview.
In an exhaustive interview, Fadnavis added that the BJP will have a comfortable majority in the 288-member legislature along with the support of smaller parties of the truncated Grand Alliance.
Dismissing speculation that its erstwhile ally Shiv Sena would win more seats, the chief minister probable asserted: “The verdict will completely favour the BJP.”
He discounted the possibility of the other four main parties — the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena — ganging up to keep the BJP out of power if it emerges as the single largest entity.
“The Congress and NCP are in such a bad shape that they cannot form a government with any other party. Besides, Maharashtra generally goes with the ruling party at the centre (now BJP),” says Fadnavis, a qualified lawyer.
Asked why the BJP has not projected anyone for the post of chief minister, the 44-year-old Brahmin from Nagpur stiffens a trifle. The issue has become sensitive in the party.
“We concluded that Maharashtra wants to go with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his agenda of development and progress. So, the government will be fully supportive of this,” said Fadnavis, who became India’s youngest city mayor (Nagpur) at age 27.
But he says there were four-five prominent leaders in the party for the top post: Eknath Khadse, former leader of the opposition in the assembly, Vinod Tawde, leader of the opposition in the legislative council, Pankaja Munde, daughter of the late Gopinath Munde, and Fadnavis.
If the BJP wins the election, will it prefer the state’s first woman OBC chief minister (Pankaja Munde) or second Brahmin chief minister (Fadnavis)?
“Maharashtra has moved far ahead of any caste-religion considerations. A majority of voters are in the 25-year age group. They have dreams and aspirations, a desire for development, progress, employment.”
Asked about supposed divergent views between BJP president Amit Shah and Modi, Fadnavis said: “They share an excellent coordination and rapport. Every decision is given due weightage and consideration by both.
“All matters are discussed freely and democratically. All divergent views are respected before taking decisions in the BJP.”
Will the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s support to Modi and BJP help?
Replied Fadnavis: “They (RSS) never order anybody to work for any party or promote anyone. But they mobilize their resources in the national interests.”
Fadnavis shuns suggestions that the Modi-Shah-led BJP’s desire for “a total mandate” in Maharashtra and Haryana smacks of monopolizing power in a pluralistic federal structure.
“Monopolies work in an autocracy, not in a democracy. Several past examples have proved that nobody is happy with coalition governments. All parties have complained of shortcomings in coalitions.
“So the BJP is clear about its ‘full mandate’ agenda for development. But all viewpoints will count. We will consider and accommodate them fully,” he said.
Fadnavis said in the past one month or so, the BJP held around 600 meetings across Maharashtra.
“Of course Modi is in the limelight. But it will not be right to say the entire burden is on his shoulders.
“Our workers are extremely enthusiastic, especially in the 169 assembly constituencies where we shall contest for the first time.”
Why did BJP leaders kept quiet when Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel asked Mumbai industrialists to set shop in her state?
“Why only Anandiben Patel? All chief ministers come to Mumbai seeking investment and business from Mumbai,” said Fadnavis.
“We must ensure we give the best business environment here. It will prevent anybody from going elsewhere.”
To a query on carving out Vidarbha from Maharashtra, Fadnavis says that ideologically the BJP’s national agenda is for smaller states for better development.
“We must ensure there is no fighting between a new state and the existing state from which it is carved out. Our national agenda remains.”