Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blue-eyed boy and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis has not only proved to be a strong opposition in Maharashtra but has successfully headed various campaigns for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) across the country.
Fadnavis, who celebrates his birthday on July 22, served as the 18th Chief Minister of Maharashtra (CM), from October 31, 2014 to November 8, 2019. He was the first Chief Minister of Maharashtra from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Fadnavis’ father Gangadhar Fadnavis served as a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council from Nagpur. During the Emergency, Fadnavis' father, being a member of the Jan Sangh, was incarcerated for participating in anti-government protests. His mother, Sarita, who is a descendant of the Kaloti family of Amravati, was the former director of the Vidarbha Housing Credit Society. Fadnavis is married to Amruta Fadnavis, and has one daughter, Divija
Fadnavis received his initial schooling from Indira Convent but was transferred to Saraswati Vidyalaya school when he refused to continue there after his father was jailed during Emergency. He attended Dharampeth Junior College for his higher secondary and then enrolled at Government Law College, Nagpur for a five-year integrated law degree to graduate in 1992.
Fadnavis also has a post-graduate degree in Business Management and a diploma in Methods and Techniques of Project Management from DSE (German Foundation for International Development), Berlin.
Fadnavis entered politics in the mid-nineties. As a college student, Fadnavis was an active member of the BJP affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He won his first municipal election from Ram Nagar ward in the year 1992 at the age of 22 and became a corporator. 5 years later, in 1997, Fadnavis, at 27, became the youngest mayor of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation and became the second youngest mayor in the history of India.
After the 2014 assembly elections, Fadnavis was elected the legislative party leader by the BJP MLAs in the presence of the party's central observers, Union Home minister Rajnath Singh and the party's National Chief Jagat Prakash Nadda. As the leader of the largest party in the assembly, Fadnavis was appointed as the chief minister of Maharashtra on October 31, 2014. His government won a confidence motion by voice vote on November 12, 2014.
In a state where politics is dominated by the Marathas, who comprise one-third of the state’s population, Fadnavis became the second Brahmin CM, after Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena, when the BJP emerged as the single largest party but fell short of the 144-majority mark in the 2014 Assembly elections (the Sena and BJP had fought the polls separately). Not surprisingly, Fadnavis plays down the importance of caste, claiming, for instance, that Maharashtra had “moved beyond” such criteria.
In 2015, Devendra Fadnavis became the first Indian to be selected for an Honorary Doctorate by Osaka City University, Japan. The 120-year-old university then had so far conferred its supreme honorary degree on only 10 distinguished persons in the world. The university said Fadnavis was chosen for the honour for his initiative taken through major reforms for socio-economic development in Maharashtra.
Fadnavis unveiled a Statue of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar - the architect of Indian Constitution and the founding father of the Republic of India - at the Koyasan University in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan on September 10, 2015. In June 2018, Fadnavis received the Outstanding Leadership in Development Award by Georgetown University, USA which he dedicated to the people of Maharashtra.
During his term as the chief minister, Fadnavis always sought to project himself as a development-oriented chief minister, but his record has been mixed on this count. He pushed ahead with Metro project in Mumbai, even if it means that his administration had to go toe to toe with the environmental activists and residents of Aarey forest area.
He has also been able to dilute protest movements such as the Maratha quota agitation and the farmers’ stir before they took radical political overtones, thus not giving much opportunity to the likes of Maratha strongman and NCP leader Sharad Pawar to capitalise on the negative sentiment.
During his term as the chief minister, he went after his rivals quietly but effectively. Pankaja Munde was closer to Modi-Shah and could get access to Shah anytime. Eknath Khadse was senior and powerful and seen as a threat. Both got embroiled in controversies. Allegations about Khadse, involving a deal in public land, were published and he had to quit the ministry.
Munde’s relative inexperience in administration led to grave errors in awarding contracts for nutritious meals to tribal children as she handed them to suppliers previously blacklisted. It effectively put her on the defensive and seriously affected her political clout.
He also attempted to fortify his anti-corruption credentials by dropping some controversial ministers from his Cabinet. Fadnavis assiduously began building his personal profile – with considerable help from a group of media friends – and towards the end of his term, he was being hailed as the young leader to watch out for; a leader with a great future ahead at the national level. He has gained clout in five years, with both the Amit Shah-Narendra Modi duo and the RSS considering him to be trustworthy.