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This BJP MLA is Devendra Fadnavis’ go-to troubleshooter for seething farmers & allies

A native of Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, Girish Mahajan, 58, is a five-time MLA and minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government.

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Mumbai: Each time Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis gave opposition defectors a grand welcome into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the past fortnight, he had by his side a minister who has emerged as his government’s chosen troubleshooter.

Most readers outside Maharashtra would know Girish Mahajan, 58, from headlines about his love for firearms — it was Mahajan who arrived at a government school in 2015 with a gun strapped to his belt — but he has proved a key strategist for Fadnavis.

A native of Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, Mahajan is said to have played a major role in getting leaders from the opposition camp to cross over this election season, besides quelling various protests against the Fadnavis government over the past five years.

He was also Fadnavis’ chosen emissary when ally Shiv Sena seemed set to part ways, convincing the party to stick with the alliance, and delivering the party from yet another rough patch.

A fitness enthusiast

If you ever show up at his office or house for a meeting, chances are that you will walk in on Mahajan, described by colleagues as a fitness enthusiast, squeezing in some last-minute exercise.

“He is very conscious about exercising and eating right,” said a BJP leader. “Often, visitors have seen him finishing up his push-ups and planks in a track suit before showing up for meetings.”

Mahajan, the state Minister for Water Resources and Medical Education, started his political outing as a volunteer with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and rose to become the president of its Jalgaon unit.

The son of a primary school teacher, Mahajan contested and won his first assembly election in 1995 from Jamner, Jalgaon, which elected him to his fifth consecutive term as MLA in 2014.

Political watchers attribute Mahajan’s rise in prominence to a deliberate strategy of the state brass to counter senior party leader Eknath Khadse’s clout in north Maharashtra.

Both Mahajan and Khadse are members of the Other Backward Classes — while Mahajan is a Gujjar, Khadse is a member of the Leva Patil community — and belong to Jalgaon.

Khadse, once the BJP’s OBC face, was among the contenders for the chief minister’s chair when the BJP-led government assumed office in 2014, but was eventually inducted as Fadnavis’ number two in the cabinet. Allegations of corruption led Khadse to resign in June 2016, and he has been on the sidelines ever since, despite a clean chit.

“Mahajan has grown to be a high-profile minister,” political analyst Prakash Bal had said while speaking to ThePrint earlier this year. “He has helped the BJP win a few local elections. Internally, pushing Mahajan helps the BJP cut Khadse to size, but one is not sure about how much this will help politically,” he added.

Also read: Devendra Fadnavis is the Pramod Mahajan of Shiv Sena-BJP alliance 2.0, almost

The troubleshooter

The Fadnavis-led government has faced several protests since 2014, most frequently by distressed farmers looking for aid.

The biggest such stir came in March 2018, when over 35,000 farmers and tribals marched 170 km from Nashik to Mumbai during the state budget session to have their demands heard.

Eager to placate the protesters, the CM picked Mahajan — over many senior ministers such as Chandrakant Patil, the number two in the cabinet, and even the then state agriculture minister Pandurang Phundkar — to establish a dialogue.

This year, the All India Kisan Sabha, the organisers of the march, planned an encore to emphasise what they described as the failure of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and the state, but it was called off in a day after the leaders held a five-hour negotiation with Mahajan.

Even with the dairy farmers’ strike in Maharashtra last year, the first signs of a breakthrough came after Mahajan held talks with Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti, who was spearheading the agitation.

Mahajan has delivered for Fadnavis politically as well: He was at the forefront of the BJP’s successful campaigns for the Nashik, Jalgaon and Dhule civic polls, as well as the prized Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll last year. In Palghar, he was a key player in getting Rajendra Gavit of the Congress to defect to the BJP and be its bypoll candidate.

More recently, he helped the BJP score two major victories — get Sujay Vikhe Patil and Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil, sons of two senior leaders from the Congress and NCP, respectively, to join the party.

Last month, at a joint dinner for BJP and Shiv Sena legislators hosted by the CM after the finalisation of the alliance, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray reportedly praised Mahajan.

“He singled out Mahajan as one of the major reasons the alliance worked out,” a Shiv Sena legislator said.

Also read: Devendra Fadnavis has a problem — how to appease Marathas & not anger OBCs


If the minister has brought victories to the Fadnavis government, he has brought embarrassment in equal measure.

In 2015, Mahajan waved a fist at an NCP MLA in the legislative assembly, drawing a stern warning from Speaker Haribhau Bagade. The same year, he showed up for a school function in Jalgaon with a gun strapped to his waist.

Amid the furore that ensued, Mahajan clarified that it was a licensed revolver he only kept for self-defence, with the CM defending him too.

Then, in 2017, he was filmed chasing a leopard with a gun in a jungle near his constituency, heading a group of villagers aggrieved by frequent attacks.

The hunt was futile, but the video went viral, prompting sharp criticism from the opposition. Mahajan had defended himself at the time, saying it was his obligation to protect the villagers as the local MLA.

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