'Fadnavis should become CM as long as...': Maharashtra BJP chief
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule on Sunday suggested as long as he is heading the party's state unit, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should become the chief minister for the state's "overall development".
The statement comes months after Bawankule's predecessor Chandrakant Patil, who is now a cabinet minister, had said the BJP decided with a heavy heart that rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde should become the chief minister instead of Fadnavis, a former CM.
Bawankule's remark gave ammunition to the Opposition parties on the eve of the state's legislature session, with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) saying it showed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had no value for current CM Shinde.
Speaking at a public event in Nagpur, Bawankule said, "... As long as I am the state unit president (of the BJP), Fadnavis should become..." The BJP leader left the sentence incomplete and paused as he waited for a response from the audience.
After a couple of persons from the audience shouted "chief minister", Bawankule continued his speech and said, "We all need to work in such a manner that he (Fadnavis) will get that post (of CM). It is not about getting him that post, but it is for the overall development of Maharashtra state."
"If one person can define the future of Maharashtra, it is Devendraji,” he added.
Bawankule, who was speaking in the presence of Fadnavis, said it was the duty of every BJP functionary to ensure the "2014-19 era", when the latter led the state government, must come back.
"People from all communities must come together to take Fadnavis to the highest post in the state," Bawankule said.
The BJP, the largest single party in the Maharashtra Assembly, sprang a surprise on June 30 when it announced that Shinde, who had split the Sena and toppled the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, would become the CM.
After the Uddhav Thackeray government collapsed due to the rebellion by a group of 40 Shiv Sena MLAs led by Shinde, it was expected that Fadnavis would become the CM. But Fadnavis announced that Shinde would lead the new government.
Fadnavis had initially said he would stay outside the government, but within a couple of hours, BJP president J P Nadda announced Fadnavis will take oath as the deputy CM.
A few days later, Chandrakant Patil, who was heading the BJP state unit at that time, said, "We needed to provide a leader who would convey the right message and ensure stability. The central leadership and Devendra-ji decided to back Eknath Shinde as CM with a heavy heart. We were unhappy but decided to accept the decision."
Bawankule became the saffron party's state unit chief in August this year.
Responding to Bawankule's statement, NCP MLC Amol Mitkari said, "It means BJP leaders have zero value for current CM Eknath Shinde and his faction. Soon, they (Shinde and his supporters) will realise that they have been cheated by the BJP."
"Chandrakant Patil had already made a similar statement a few months back that it was painful for BJP leaders to see Fadnavis becoming deputy CM," he said.
NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto, in a tweet, sought to know how Bawankule would go about installing Fadnavis as CM within his term as the BJP president.
"Would it be by holding early state polls or by getting Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to resign?" Crasto asked.
A day earlier, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had said the Shinde-led government will not last till February next year.
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