Devendra Fadnavis - Mr Clean of Maharashtra politics

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Oct 28, 2014, 16:49 PM IST

A trained lawyer by profession, Devendra Gangadhar Fadnavis belongs to a rare breed of politicians from Maharashtra who are both, studious and immensely popular with the masses. The 42-year-old Maharashtra BJP president is a staunch supporter of statehood for Vidarbha besides being known for his RSS roots and clean image.

While he had served as the mayor of Nagpur in past, Fadnavis also holds the distinction of being the youngest BJP leader to have been appointed the president of its Maharashtra unit. He was appointed as the BJP Maharashtra state unit chief on 11th April 2013 by the then national president Rajnath Singh.

Appointment of Fadnavis, seen as a promising and a hard working leader, as Maharashtra BJP chief ended the bitter tussle between the Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde factions within the party on the auspicious Marathi new year (Gudi Padwa), when he was chosen as a “compromise” candidate.

Known for his scholarly approach towards problems, the BJP leader from the Nagpur city earlier had the distinction of being the second-youngest mayor in the country when he became mayor of Nagpur in 1997. A year later, he became the first 'mayor-in-council'.

Although he is known to have shared an excellent rapport with late Gopinath Munde, Fadnavis has never ever defied or criticised Nitin Gadkari - another top BJP leader from the state. In fact, shortly after his appointment as state BJP chief last year, Fadnavis immediately drove to Gadkari's Mahal residence to seek his blessings.

Fadnavis took over from Ballarpur MLA Sudhir Mugantiwar, whose continuation in second term was opposed by Munde. Bowing to Munde's pressure, the Gadkari group had pitched for Vinod Tawde for the post. But after several rounds of deliberations with Munde and Gadkari, party president Rajnath Singh zeroed in on Fadnavis. The young BJP leader enjoys immense support from the BJP's ideological mentor - the RSS, which saw in him the traits of a capable leader with potential to achieve a lot more in his political career. At the time of his appointment, the RSS top brass ensured that Fadnavis was not labeled as part of any faction or group.

The RSS recognises Fadnavis for his clean image and tenacity, apart from his loyalty - his father, too, had been in the Sangh Parivar. Fadnavis is known for his excellent oratory skills and has been recognized in several forums for his political acumen and understanding of the ground situations. This ability has been recognized both nationally and internationally, with many awards to his name, including one from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for the 'Best Parliamentarian'.

When it comes to issues related to Vidarbha, Fadnavis is known to pursue them very passionately. At least on one occasion, when Vidarbha's development backlog was being discussed in the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly during its winter session, Fadnavis lost his cool and remarked that those doing injustice to Vidarbha have no right to attend the session dedicated to problems of the region. He, however, retracted his remarks later.

Despite being a staunch supporter of statehood for Vidarbha, Fadnavis had repeatedly said that his commitment to the cause would not diminish with his new responsibilities as state BJP chief.

As a scholar, he is a law graduate with a post-graduate degree in business management from Nagpur University, and a diploma in project management from Berlin. Fadnavis is equally articulate in English, Marathi and Hindi and has won many awards at university debates. He is much sought after for media broadcasts and has been delivering budget analysis lectures in Nagpur every year. He has travelled across the world to present papers on topics ranging from disaster management to energy security, has been on various committees of the legislature, and won the best parliamentarian award in 2002-03.

His initial training as a politician began under his late father, Gangadharrao Fadnavis, an RSS worker who represented the then Jana Sangh in the Graduates' Constituency of Maharashtra's Legislative Council - a constituency later taken over by Gadkari.

Starting from the ABVP, Devendra went on to become Nagpur's youngest and first BJP mayor in 1997, and later the first "mayor-in-council" in the state. Unlike Gadkari, who has never contested an election, Fadnavis has won three consecutive assembly elections, in 1999 and 2004 from West Nagpur, and in 2009 from the reconstituted South-west Nagpur. This has been despite his Brahmin background, considered a electoral disqualification in Maharashtra's caste-dominated politics.

Over the years, he has worked hard to end factionalism in the Maharashtra unit of the BJP and prepared the party for the recently concluded General Elections and upcoming assembly polls. Fadnavis was also part of the hectic negotiations with Shiv Sena to save the 25-year-old alliance before the two sides officially split. His family includes wife Amruta, five-year-old daughter Girija, mother and an elder brother. His aunt Shobha Fadnavis has been a legislator from Chandrapur for several years.