Evendra Fadnavis kills many birds at once

Ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis, who declined humbly the ‘man of the match’ title for winning all three Rajya Sabha seats for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra’s cliffhanger contest for six seats, has set his sights on a series of bigger games in the future that he wants to win for restoring the party’s glory, which he said was “robbed” last winter. He has been mocked constantly ever since, but he has preferred to be steady and ever ready, for he is convinced it will lead to victory, even if it is not soon.

There have been many columns in print and long hours on air about Fadnavis’ mastery of the electioneering skills he used in the RS polls, in Bihar and Goa. As revealed by BJP insiders, his baiters within and outside the party, it was his detailed planning and wooing of upset MLAs, as well as independents loyal to certain leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, that led to the BJP’s win in the RS elections. Fadnavis has promised to repeat the feat in the June 20 Legislative Council elections, further solidifying his position as BJP’s number one. BJP and MVA leaders believe there will be much bigger upsets if there are more candidates than vacancies in the elections for 10 seats. On Monday, Fadnavis advised the Sena and other candidates in the MVA to withdraw the additional candidates to avoid the contest. But negotiations seem to be the thing of the past in such a volatile political climate. The BJP is not willing to withdraw any of its six contestants. So, assume that the gloves are off, once again.

In Rajya Sabha elections, it was all about the calculations on the paper and the exact execution of it while polling. The secret ballot of independents and the MLAs of small parties made all the difference that the BJP wanted to make. The Council polls are held in a secret ballot for voter MLAs, thus throwing the field open to the parties that not only plan well, but execute it with extreme perfection. Led by Fadnavis, the BJP proved superior to the MVA, the Shiv Sena in particular, because the ruling party’s second candidate’s fate entirely depended on the surplus, the first preference and the second preference votes from the Sena, NCP and others. BJP’s third candidate won because it gave its two toppers 48 first preference votes. It was a strategy that not many would believe if told about it in advance, because the BJP had the numbers much less than the MVA’s total strength. The BJP polled much less in the first preference yet won the third seat, based on the calculations.

Considering the outcome of RS polls and the impending tussle for the state’s upper house, Fadnavis has hit many birds with one stone. He has been consistently saying that the BJP may not need to cause the downfall of the government because of distrust, infighting in the alliance and intraparty skirmishes that have been dogging the MVA constituents. If one goes by the allegations that have been levelled by Sena’s Sanjay Raut that some independents betrayed the Sena, some persons he mentioned are close to a certain NCP leader. The Sena itself has admitted all is not well within the MVA. The NCP said it was the Sena’s sole responsibility to keep the independents’ votes intact. The Sena camp is also split in its opinion about the party leaders who were responsible for gathering extra votes. The accused independents have shot back, giving the Sena in the same vein, ahead of a secret ballot in the Council polls. During canvassing, the Congress was forced to seek the AIMIM’s two votes to ensure the victory of its ‘imposed’ contestant and it is being questioned over accepting the support of AIMIM, a purported Team B of the BJP. For keeping the AIMIM in good humour, CM Uddhav Thackeray avoided hitting out at the Owaisi-led party in Aurangabad’s public rally.

Ready to go all out in his efforts to bag ‘the man of the series’ title, Fadnavis has been eying the local self-government polls—Mumbai’s being the most important for the Sena. Later, the BJP will fight solo in the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections in 2024 and attempt to win a majority. After the Council polls, the MVA will have yet another chance to prove its strength on the floor in the Monsoon Session, if it wishes so, through the Assembly Speaker’s election which has been delayed by over a year.