Mumbai: A total of 4384 kilometers, 32 districts, nearly 150 assembly constituencies, and 23 days. That is what Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is also the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party campaign in the forthcoming assembly elections, will cover during his Maha Janadesh Yatra across the state from August 1 to 31. Giving details of the yatra at a press conference here on Wednesday, newly appointed state BJP president and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said Fadnavis would showcase the achievements of the BJP-Shiv Sena government since October 2014 and seek another mandate for the saffron combine. Maharashtra assembly polls are likely in October, though no official announcement has been made yet.
“The Maha Janadesh Yatra has dual purposes. We will present before people an account of our performance in the state since 2014. On the basis of our performance, the yatra will seek another mandate from the people," Patil said.
The BJP-Shiv Sena have decided to fight the assembly polls in alliance though the exact number of seats each party would contest has not been announced yet. On July 18, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray launched a Jan Aashirvad Yatra all over the state which practically sets off the Shiv Sena’s campaign for the assembly polls and is also a bid to project Aaditya as the chief ministerial candidate. But on July 21, Fadnavis, addressing a BJP workers’ meeting in Mumbai, asserted that he was not only the chief minister of the BJP but also of other allies like Shiv Sena and smaller parties in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Fadnavis also asked the BJP cadres to target winning 220 seats in Maharashtra and added that he would come back as the chief minister.
The Maha Janadesh Yatra is seen as the BJP’s bid to not only retain power in Maharashtra but also ensure Fadnavis returns as the chief minister. “There is no challenge to Fadnavis from within the BJP or outside in Maharashtra. As he himself said, he is the only chief ministerial face the NDA has in Maharashtra. The yatra would re-state this simple fact," said a senior BJP leader and strategist requesting anonymity.
Fadnavis would launch the yatra from Mojhari in Amravati district of Vidarbha, a BJP stronghold. Mojhari is the birthplace of Tukdoji Maharaj, one of the revered saints of 20th century in Maharashtra. During the first phase of the yatra between August 1 and 9, Fadnavis will cover 14 districts and 57 assembly constituencies in Vidarbha and North Maharashtra spanning a distance of 1639 km. The first phase will conclude at Nandurbar, one of the tribal pockets in the state which the BJP captured in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and retained in 2019.
The second phase will begin from August 17 and cover 18 districts and 93 constituencies. Fadnavis will traverse a distance of 2745 km in the second phase. The 23-day-long reach-out will see Fadnavis cover 1232 km and 44 constituencies in Vidarbha, 633 km and 34 constituencies in North Maharashtra, 1069 km and 28 constituencies in Marathwada, 812 km and 29 assembly segments in Western Maharashtra, and 638 km and 15 constituencies in the Konkan region.
“During the yatra, Fadnavis will address 87 big and 57 small public meetings. All BJP ministers and office bearers will attend the inauguration of the yatra and will accompany Fadnavis in their respective districts. The yatra will have an LED-enabled chariot also to showcase the achievements of our government," Patil said.
The BJP leader quoted above said the yatra is only the launch of the BJP campaign and added that Fadnavis and other leaders would cover the remaining 138 constituencies in the state in the next phases of the campaign. “We are reaching out to all 288 constituencies, though the 150 assembly segments the yatra will pass through could be termed as category A constituencies for the BJP, which means they are our strongholds," said the BJP leader adding that top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president and home minister Amit Shah, would join the campaign at a later stage.