RSS roots, PM Modi's backing make Fadnavis win Maharashtra CM's race

Devendra Fadnavis with Nitin Gadkari.
Mumbai, Oct 28: From an obscure corporator to becoming the youngest Mayor of Nagpur, to the first BJP Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis' climb up the political ladder has been steady.

In a state dominated by Maratha politics and politicians, the 44-year-old leader, with deep roots in RSS, is only the second Brahmin after BJP's estranged ally Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi to become Chief Minister.

The soft spoken and portly young leader was a clear favourite for the coveted post 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, largely due to the confidence he enjoys of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah.

"Devendra is Nagpur's gift to the country," Modi had said of him at an election rally.

Though Modi had launched a presidential-style campaign blitzkrieg in Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls, a portion of the credit also went to Fadnavis, state BJP President, for the party's unprecedented victories in both.

Together with Shiv Sena and Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha, the saffron alliance had won 42 of the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats. Despite its bitter separation with Sena just ahead of the Assembly election, BJP won 122 seats in the 288-member House, up from 46 in 2009.

Fadnavis earned the appreciation of both Modi and Shah for the way he handled the election. Son of Jan Sangh and later BJP leader late Gangadhar Fadnavis, whom his fellow Nagpur politician and former party Chief Nitin Gadkari calls his "political guru", Devendra cut his teeth in politics at a young age when he joined Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students wing of RSS, in 1989.

At 22, he became a corporator in the Nagpur civic body and its youngest Mayor in 1997 at the age of 27. Fadnavis contested his first Assembly election in 1999 and won.

There was no looking back for the strong proponent of a separate Vidarbha state as he won three subsequent Assembly elections. He currently represents Nagpur South West seat in the House. Unlike many leaders across the political spectrum in Maharashtra, Fadnavis has remained untainted by accusations of corruption.


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