Before leading the BJP to victory in Maharashtra in the 2014 state Assembly polls, the unassuming 44-year-old chief minister-to-be Devendra Fadnavis had lent subtle touches to the party’s poll campaigns in 2007 and 2012 in neighbouring Goa.
And many remember the soft-spoken politician who was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appointed overseer for two constituencies of Saligao and Aldona, both in North Goa.
“I found him simple and down to earth. He stayed at a modest hotel along the Porvorim highway and was very punctual in keeping his appointments. He would be ready by 8 a.m. sharp and we would discuss strategies over a cup of tea before proceeding for campaigning work,” says Juino De Souza, a member the BJP’s minority morcha.
Then a sitting legislator elected from the Nagpur constituency, Fadnavis’ traits as a cool customer and a canny political player were evident on election trail then, De Souza says.
“He spoke very little and was a good listener. I always found him calm, cool and composed even in the most tense situations… He was a master planner and it was because of his meticulous planning that veteran politician and former CM of Goa Wilfred D’Souza was defeated in Saligao in the 2007 elections,” he says.
His humility, blended with a sense of astuteness was evident from the fact, says Juino, that Fadanvis rarely sat on dais during political rallies, but rather snooped around in the audience to know the pulse of the attendees.
“During public meetings, Devendra Fadnavis never took a position on the dais but would be seen standing quietly on the side keenly observing and evaluating the success and strength of the crowd at each gathering,” De Souza says.
Anil Lad, editor of InGoa, a local cable news channel who was reporting on poll events organised by the BJP during the 2012 state Assembly campaign, recalls interacting with the MBA who Friday will take oath at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium as the 18th chief minister of Maharashtra, one of the richest states in the country.
“He was always like a gentleman. Extremely soft-spoken and polite to the core,” Lad recalls. “He is 44 now, so he was around 42 years old that time. But he actually looked young and fresh like he was 35 years, even though he was in the middle of the hectic and aggressive poll campaign,” Lad adds.