The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began its campaign for the coming Assembly elections with the Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declaring on Thursday that Devendra Fadnavis was the chief ministerial candidate for the polls to be contested jointly with Shiv Sena. Mr. Singh was flagging of the first phase of the one-month-long Mahajanadesh Yatra at Mozari in Amarvati. Mr. Fadnavis will travel approximately 4,384 km covering 32 districts in the two phases of the yatra. Mr. Singh declared that the BJP-Sena alliance would win 250 seats under the leadership of Mr. Fadnavis.“Somebody was telling me that our target for Maharastra is 220. But we believe if both parties come together we can win at least 250 seats. The workers should go from door-to-door to tell voters that Devendra Fadnavis will be chief ministerial candidate,” Mr. Singh said while listing out the achievements by the government in the last five years. The yatra will cover 668 km in Konkan, 812 km in western Maharashtra, 1,232 km in Vidarbha, and 633 km and 1,069 km in north Maharastra and Marathwada respectively. Addressing party workers and the people, who had to wait for over four hours for the leaders to arrive, Mr. Singh fully endorsed the leadership of Mr. Fadnavis, and said, “If someone asks me how has Maharashtra Chief Minister performed past five years, I would say Devendra Fadnavis has done wonders for the State. Earlier, many people had doubts if he would be a responsible administrator at a young age but Mr. Fadnavis has shown in five years has won the trust of every person.” He said steps taken by the State have reduced drought and farm suicides. “I do not want to claim that farmers’ suicide is fully eliminated, but the work by the government in the next five years, if voted back to power, will bring these numbers to zero in this State. Farm income too will double by 2022,” the Union minister said. Earlier, listing out the achievements of his government, Mr. Fadnavis asked people to vote him and his back to power, with a majority. “My government has made fighting drought a priority. If you want me to continue this battle and make the State free of drought and water scarcity through programmes such as Jal Yukta Shivar, do vote me back to power. Give me a thumping mandate,” he said. Mr. Fadnavis said their work has proved to be a magnet for others to join, even thoughthe party is not trying to woo anyone. “The BJP has never chased anyone. We will take in those leaders who are capable and put a ‘housful’ board for the rest,” he said while referring to exodus of Opposition MLAs to the BJP ranks over the past few weeks. The Chief Minister said he was launching the yatra to connect with the people and let them know of his government’s achievements. “We have done in three years what the previous governments could not do in 15 years. Several projects which were stuck were cleared, and I challenge anyone for an open debate on the pace of the works done by us,” he said. Mr. Singh also praised the Union government for taking several bold steps, including firming up defence capabilities, and the decision on triple talaq. “The Congress in the Shah Bano case did not muster enough courage and instead went against the mandate of the Supreme Court to make a law. But when our government saw that triple talaq was leaving lakhs of women to fend for themselves, we took a progressive decision,” he said.