Eye on Maharashtra: What do nine lives of Devendra Fadnavis have to do with judge Loya's death?

The former BJP chief minister, claim BJP insiders, has survived till now because he is believed to know far too much about the mysterious death of CBI judge Brijgopal Harkishen Loya

Illustration by Clyde Crasto
Illustration by Clyde Crasto

Sujata Anandan

Devendra Fadnavis has to be the most loathsome politician of our times. He beats even other abominable leaders in the BJP. When Sharad Pawar fell ill, at least Narendra Modi and Amit Shah tweeted speedy recovery messages. When Mulayam Singh Yadav was indisposed, Yogi Adityanath asked after his health.

But no such courtesies figure in Fadnavis’s book. When Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray undergoes a surgery, Fadnavis is keen to declare him unfit for office at the very moment that Uddhav is communicating on chats with his officers and journalists-- now whether he does it from his recovery room or his office should not really matter in this work-fromhome era so long as the papers are signed and files are moved. And I have reasons to know they are.

But why is Fadnavis so obsessed with the dismissal of Uddhav Thackeray? It is not as if Uddhav’s resignation will make any difference to this government. There are enough stalwarts in the Maha Vikas Aghadi who can smoothly pick up the reins and keep the government running in case of Uddhav Thackeray’s indisposition.

The BJP would need more than just that to form a government and I am told by multiple sources within the BJP and outside it that it is the national leaders of the BJP who do not have the inclination to do so. And Fadnavis has much to do with that reluctance.

Fadnavis’s promotion of himself as the number three in the BJP even while Arun Jaitley was alive and the desire of a section of the RSS to groom him as an alternative to Modi has not only gone to Fadnavis’s head but also annoyed and angered the current trinity, the third ambitious prime ministerial hopeful being Adityanath. But why can’t the mighty duo just tell off Fadnavis instead of going through the charade of seeming inability to form a government and install Fadnavis as chief minister?

Sources in the know tell me that it has much to do with late CBI Special Judge B.H. Loya. I have it from one of the horse’s mouth that there exists a video that shows Judge Loya being brought out in an injured condition not out of the Ravi Bhavan where it was claimed he suffered a heart attack but another official building that is likely to immediately expose the lies woven around the case at the time.

Fadnavis, the sources say, has full knowledge of the case, given he was the chief minister then but BJP’s national leadership is unsure of the kind of evidence he might be holding. So from their point of view it is by far better to allow Fadnavis to run himself out with his shenanigans than empower him again, killing two birds with one stone by also neutralising his bid to be prime minister.

For Modi is well aware how his survival in the chief minister’s office in Gujarat helped him to mobilise a cash-rich state to realise his own ambition in that direction. Maharashtra too has as much money and industry is already tiring of Modi. Moreover, he turns 75 in 2024 and he would not want to be hoist with his own petard a la L.K. Advani and forcibly retired by someone younger with enough resources and RSS support to pull it off. That is something that does not amuse Shah either. I am told the duo in Delhi are waiting for Fadnavis to make a complete laughing stock of himself so that he is not taken seriously by anybody and that is already happening in some measure.

The BJP in Maharashtra is losing support for lack of leadership and Fadnavis has already been told by his own partymen that he must stop flapping around for the chief minister’s office and start behaving like a more responsible opposition leader.

So, Fadnavis will be better served if he stops targeting Uddhav Thackeray and brooding about who really tripped him up at the finishing line. Was it Uddhav Thackeray who allegedly betrayed the BJP-- for it would not have been impossible for the duo to bring him around had they really wanted to; or was it Sharad Pawar, who Fadnavis challenged as past his prime when he should have shown more respect to a leader with 50 uninterrupted years in active politics and one, moreover, who had made his political debut even before Fadnavis was born? Even Narendra Modi deferred to Pawar, saying that the pitamah of Indian politics hand-held him through his early years in the field. So, did Pawar get even by edging Fadnavis out of office? Or was it his own overconfidence and his constant refrain-- “Mee punha yein” (I will return)-- that nauseated the people and they voted against him, for without that loss of vote the MVA could never have come forward?

Whatever the reason may be, Fadnavis’ current behaviour is making him come across as both ridiculous and reprehensible, a feat rarely achieved by any politician in recent times.

(The writer is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai)

This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.

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