MUMBAI: The rise of Devendra Fadnavis, the helmsman of the first BJP government in Maharashtra, from an obscure Nagpur corporator to the Chief Minister has been quiet but steady.
The 44-year-old fourth term MLA, who worked for long under the shadows of stalwarts like Pramod Mahajan, Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari, has deep roots in RSS and was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party Chief Amit Shah over his seniors for his organisational skills after BJP's triumphant run in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
The untimely death of Mahajan and Munde, the latter was tipped for chief ministership if BJP came to power in the state, and Gadkari's shift to the national stage, left a vacuum in state party leadership but opened a new vista for the young leader's march to Mantralaya, the seat of power in Maharashtra.
In a state dominated by Maratha politicians, Fadnavis is only the second Brahmin Chief Minister after estranged former ally Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi and second youngest to hold the top post after NCP boss Sharad Pawar.
The soft spoken and portly young leader was a clear favourite for the coveted job through the intense lobbying by a clutch of leaders from BJP's state Core Committee after it emerged as the single largest party but always looked certain to clinch it, with the solid backing from Modi and Shah.
"Devendra is Nagpur's gift to the country," Modi had said of him at an election rally, clearly indicating his preference for the man groomed in true RSS tradition like himself.
Though Modi had launched a presidential-style campaign blitzkrieg in Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls, credit for the emphatic victories also went to Fadnavis, the state BJP president.
Together with Shiv Sena and Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha, the saffron alliance had won 42 of the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats.
Despite its messy separation with Sena just ahead of the Assembly election, BJP won 122 seats in the 288-member House, up from 46 in 2009. Its strength has, however, come down to 121 following the death of an MLA Govind Rathod.