The Shiv Sena can wait. There will be no vacancy on the 6th floor of Mantralaya, the Maharashtra chief minister’s office in upscale South Mumbai, if the BJP leads its alliance back to power on October 24. Maharashtra politics have changed and so has the hierarchy in the saffron alliance. With a perceptible shift in its position, the BJP is now firmly in the driver’s seat, having relegated its ally Sena to play second fiddle in the ensuing assembly polls—a scenario few political pundits would have placed their wagers on five years ago. And by the looks of it, Devendra Fadnavis looks well on course for his second consecutive term in office.
Back in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s national president Amit Shah reposed trust in Fadnavis—only the second Brahmin leader since Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi to become the CM—there was no dearth of skeptics wondering whether the 44-year-old leader from Nagpur had it in him whatever it takes to govern the richest state, dominated by powerful Maratha satraps over the years. Five years on, Fadnavis has tightened his grip on the party and his deft handling of the Maratha reservation issue, among other things, appears to have further endeared him to the central leadership.