Mumbai: The race for the chief minister’s post has intensified in the state BJP ahead of the counting of votes on Sunday. Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Eknath Khadse, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde, state BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, and the daughter of late BJP leader Gopinath Munde MLA Pankaja Munde have started lobbying for the post by demanding support from MLAs who will be elected on Sunday.
The probable CM candidates were seen busy after the polls, pitching their names in Delhi circles by boasting about their strength and getting favourable media coverage. Mr Khadse and Ms Munde rushed to Mumbai immediately after the Assembly polls on October 15 and started meeting party members. Mr Tawde, being from Mumbai, had already started gathering support from BJP leaders, sources in the party said.
BJP candidates who were contesting the polls have been visiting the leaders to declare their support. A few even greeted the leaders, referring to them as ‘chief minister’ and gifted them bouquets and flowers. “We have given our support to Khadseji as he is the senior-most and an experienced leader in the party. We met him today and told him that he would be the CM candidate,” a supporter of Mr Khadse said.
Another group of BJP candidates was seen meeting Mr Tawde, who held a closed-door meeting with them. The details of the meeting are not known, but sources said the course of action following the results was discussed.
Ms Munde has openly expressed her desire to become the CM of the state and is considered to be one of the frontrunners. She was busy speaking with the media for two days before the results. A Sangharsha Yatra conducted by her elevated her status among the state leaders and she emerged as the CM candidate. Being a woman and representing OBCs are points in her favour. Also, she has the masses’ sympathy after the death of her father, who was also considered to be a CM candidate.
Mr Fadnavis has not directly stated that he was in the race for the CM’s post, but he has not denied it either. He has already hinted that he was the first choice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his informal slogan ‘Upar Narendra Niche Devendra’ (Narendra at the Centre and Devendra in the state). His clean image, young age, loyalty and RSS background are some factors in his favour.
However, senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse said that final decision on the matter rested with the party leadership. “There may be many names for the CM’s post in the party. But the party chiefs will take the final decision. We will respect the decision and follow it,” he said, refusing to openly admit that he too was in the race.