Yesterday, Prithviraj Chavan completed two years in office as chief minister of Maharashtra. Apt time to assess his contributions and achievements, and the fluctuating fortunes of the state under his regime. While Chavan himself has managed to stay away from controversies and corruption, the state has made very little forward movement.
For instance, in the last two years we have witnessed slow or no progress on big-league projects like Navi Mumbai International Airport, Metro 1, 2 and 3, Sewri-Nhava Sheva Sea Link, Coastal Road, Eastern Freeway, etc.
Before Chavan took over the reins, the state had three Congress CMs who did offer a stable government in terms of political equations, but certainly not with respect to overall progress. The state has seen successive failures in achieving the target of overall progress and witnessed spiralling growth in debt, which even the incumbent has failed to stem. But, Chavan’s success lies in the fact that he succeeded in stopping the leniency enjoyed by unscrupulous elements in governance despite successive mistakes.
Today, a layman would say Chavan has been a non-controversial, non-corrupt CM. But the same cannot be said about his government. What the present CM is offering to the state, according to people close to him, is akin to Ayurvedic treatment — results of which become apparent much later. He is busy putting in place a system of governance, which doesn’t bend to the whims and fancies of people with power or influence.
While establishing himself as a leader, Chavan has ignored what his detractors say about his style of functioning. His tendency to not take quick decisions and approve files only after going through them carefully has drawn flak rather than laurels. Interestingly, we hear good things about him from Shiv Sena — a party in Opposition —, but not from alliance partner NCP.
On the flipside, he has not been successful in establishing a structure in the state administration despite the fact that he was minister of state for personnel and training — the parent department of IAS cadre — while at the Centre. Apart from vacancies, the system of transfers too is difficult to fathom.
There are no answers to certain questions such as why the industry department that drafted its new industrial policy doesn’t have a full-time secretary since AA Khan left? Why CIDCO hasn’t had a permanent vice- chairman and managing director for over two years? When Chavan is known as a strict and disciplined person, why Bhaskar Mundhe was not allowed to assume charge as secretary of women and child development department? Why the state excise department has chosen to go without a full-time secretary for the last many years?
In recent times, transfers of officials were done in an arbitrary manner without offering a full term. This has disturbed the state bureaucracy rather than offering a semblance of stability.
The Congress leadership has always chosen to discount complaints against Chavan and offered him full freedom. The party, perhaps, wishes to cultivate Chavan as a winning face — such as Narendra Modi in Gujrat, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. For that to happen NCP’s presence in state politics has to be minimised and Chavan seems to be working on that overtime. He is certainly giving the Sharad Pawar-led party some very distressing moments.
But what the state needs most is a leader for the future. Chavan is 66 years old and no one knows when he would choose or be chosen to return to Delhi.
There is a leadership crisis in Maharashtra as Sharad Pawar and Bal Thackeray are well past their prime. The same is the case with NCP as its most powerful leader after Sharad Pawar, his nephew Ajit, has become controversial because of his alleged involvement in the irrigation scam.
Though Pawar has been promoting his daughter Supriya, it will not be easy to establish her as a state-level leader. BJP has reposed faith in Gopinath Munde who is 64, leader of opposition Eknath Khadse is now 62 and does not appear keen to lead from the front, and the party is not ready to assign any major responsibility to Devendra Fadnavis and is not allowing Sudhir Mungantiwar to work freely. The only choice that remains is Vinod Tawde who cannot establish himself unless he wins an assembly election.
In Shiv Sena, Uddhav has been battling health problems. His cousin Raj Thackeray, chief of MNS, exhibited promise, but is not ready to go beyond Mumbai, Pune and Nashik. A large void stares the citizens in the face, and it is only getting bigger with time.
— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY