Maharashtra's BJP chief is RSS-backed scholar who wants Vidarbha state

FP

Devendra Fadnavis, 42, the BJP's new president for Maharashtra, is studious and yet a fierce activist for statehood for Vidarbha, besides being known for his RSS roots and carrying a clean image.

Fadnavis, an MLA with degrees in law and management, was appointed state unit president on Thursday, with the RSS reportedly having needed to persuade former national BJP president Nitin Gadkari, incidentally the RSS's own prop. Gadkari had been insisting on a second term to Sudhir Mungantiwar rather than have Fadnavis as a "consensus" candidate.

After the announcement and the immediate celebrations at his Nagpur home, Fadnavis drove to Gadkari's home to seek his blessings. The RSS recognises Fadkari for his clean image and tenacity, apart from his loyalty — his father too had been in the RSS.

As an activist, Fadnavis has often attacked the western Maharashtra leadership for Vidarbha's problems. "Chalet wha (leave Vidarbha)," he once said in the assembly, drawing criticism not only from the ruling parties but also from alliance partner Shiv Sena. Members reminded him the assembly was still that of a united Maharashtra; he later expressed regret. In 2010, he was part of the all-party Vidarbha Rajya Sangram Samiti.

As a scholar, he is a law graduate with a postgraduate degree in business management from Nagpur University, and a diploma in project management from Berlin. Equally articulate in English, Marathi and Hindi, he won many awards at university debates, 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.

As a politician, he learnt under his late father, Gangadharrao Fadnavis, an RSS worker who represented the then Jana Sangh in the Graduates' Constituency 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.

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