MUMBAI: Whenever the Maratha agitation gains momentum, rumours of the ‘Brahmin’ Chief Minister being replaced with a Maratha start doing the rounds in Maharashtra. During this week’s agitation, too, such speculations started again. A national conclave of astrologers in Thane earlier this week predicted that Fadnavis would be ‘elevated’ to the Centre while Amit Shah’s blue-eyed boy Chandrakant Patil would become CM if the BJP managed to retain power in the state post 2019 Assembly polls.
However, party insiders say that Devendra Fadnavis, with his non-controversial image and closeness to the RSS and well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has cemented his position in the state politics. In fact, these were the factors that catapulted him to the CM’s chair in 2014. After assuming charge, he has been credited with fast-tracking a large number of infrastructure projects. All this, coupled with his humble nature, have made him indispensable for the BJP in the state, say his loyalists.
“He enjoys complete trust of PM Modi. More than that, there is nobody in the state BJP who can reach near him in terms of popularity, impact or clean image. There is no alternative to him,” said a senior minister.Some party insiders feel the ‘humble’ image makes Fadnavis docile due to which ally Shiv Sena could gain strength. This perception had even made a section within the party initiate a process to replace him about two years back, allegedly with Shah’s backing. Fadnavis reportedly scuttled the plot using his clout in Delhi.
The faction opposed to Fadnavis accuses him of not letting others grow in the party. They also suspect that several of the corruption charges against his ministers were based on information leaked by his office. But senior BJP leaders dismiss this. “Why would a CM want corruption charges against his own ministers? And if that was true, how would one explain the Opposition charges that he is a ‘clean chit CM’ (who instantly gives a clean chit to his ministers during controversies)?” asked a senior BJP leader.
The BJP’s electoral victories in the state in the past four years have further strengthened the hands of Fadnavis. “Even if party leaders want to replace him, they will have to identify a face that can match him,” said the minister adding, that the TINA (there is no alternative) factor would help Fadnavis remain firmly in his seat.