The same day last year (October 19), the Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the single largest party in Maharashtra. The gamble of playing the electoral game without long-time ally Shiv Sena paid off, albeit with some shortcomings. The BJP was unable to reach the majority mark in the Assembly on its own, but it qualified for creating the second non-Congress govern- ment in the state. The victory was attributed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s developmental agenda and anti-incumbency against the Congress-NCP’s 15-year rule.
The NCP was quick to put the Sena under pressure by extending unconditional support from outside to the BJP, even before all the poll results were in. It said that its support would ensure political stability in the state where yet another election would be unaffordable. Meantime, Devendra Fadnavis, then 44, got Modi’s approval against the wishes of many stalwarts in the BJP, for leading a minority government. A sulking Sena chose to sit in the opposition, but joined the BJP government a month later without gaining much in bargain. The Sena continues to hold the short end of the stick even as Fadnavis’ ‘original’ Cabinet that took oath in a grand ceremony at the Wankhede stadium on October 31, completes a year in office.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party hasn’t really shown any interest in the first anniversary because it continues to sulk even now because of the secondary role it is forced to play in Team Fadnavis.
I will not get into the politics of partnership, because both the BJP and Sena are expected to be pulling together despite all the issues between them. The BJP can very well afford to put up with the Sena’s antics, as long as its government remains unhar-med. Now, it’s time we asked Fadnavis to focus on what he has promised to deliver, and resolve problems he has come across in the past one year.
It’s heartening to know that development continues to top the CM’s agenda. But there are many other issues that he needs to deal with in the next four years. Fadnavis has to evolve methods to generate more revenue without burdening the people, who are already distressed because of rising inflation and successive bad years in terms of agricultural output. Mitigation of drought, controlling inflation (the Centre is even more responsible in this), tax reforms for increasing revenue generation (I’m told our state’s border check posts, if managed well, can earn three times more in taxes), industries to create more jobs, and boosting the urban and rural economy should be his serious concerns.
One year in the CMO hasn’t been a walk in the park for Fadnavis. He has faced opposition from senior BJP Cabinet colleagues, of which some have now sided with the CM. Others are expected to be eternally unhappy with him for political reasons. At this point in time, the feud does not really seem to be bothering the CM because of the mandate he has from BJP’s top bosses. However, just like a seasoned politician he continues to be cautious about party politics, and reiterates that he would go home the day he is found guilty of doing unconstitutional things.
Maharashtra, a state which has been a pioneer in social revolution that has inspired positive changes across the country, expects Fadnavis to discourage people, who misuse his party’s public mandate. Some controversies in the past year were unwarranted and proved more damaging to Fadnavis’ image of a harbinger of change. And, if he has to resurrect that image, he needs to work on a socio-political front by creating an atmosphere in which all sections of society feel safe. He should introspect, find the culprits within his party and outside it, and deal with them with the CM’s authority.
Another area that Fadnavis should focus on is the worsening urban scenario. Mumbai is a glaring case study. I hope the city’s infrastructure projects get expedited on the lines of memorials, because people tend to remain grateful to the government for building a flyover, a Metro or a sea-link. I’m not sure whether Mumbaikars will have a similar feeling for memorials which are built using taxpayers’ money.
It's just the beginning of Fadnavis' maiden innings.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day