Why is the Devendra Fadnavis government ruling by reviews?

If Devendra Fadnavis had anything to do with the BCCI, India would have been the first signatory to the Umpire Decision Review System.

Such is the chief minister’s penchant for reviewing policy that his order on Friday to review the open spaces policy is the seventh such instance. And, considering he has been in power for only 15 months, that is one policy reversal every two months.

Devendra Fadnavis
Devendra Fadnavis

The earlier instances were as follows: LED lights on Marine Drive changed, U-turns on the Metro car shed location, opposing the nightlife policy, a seriously bungled Development Plan sent back to the drawing board, hike in public parking fee deferred, and the hawking zone demarcation scrapped.

Two things stand out in these reversals — many of them were mooted in the BMC and, significantly, mostly by the Shiv Sena. The LED light policy was the odd one out, pushed by the BJP and rejected by the Sena, with the High Court finally intervening to order the restoration of yellow lights to bring back the glow of the Queen’s Necklace.

That the state has been overturning every other major BMC policy for the city raises several serious questions.

One, are the civic administration and the state government on the same page when it comes to policy regarding Mumbai? If they aren’t, will the government do something to ensure better co-ordination? If they are on the same page, why is the state constantly second-guessing the civic body? Is the country’s richest municipal body toothless?

Two, does Fadnavis have control over/knowledge of what is going on in the city? If these are genuine cases of the chief minister not knowing what his officers were up to — though this is hard to believe — then the disconnect between the political leadership and the bureaucracy is truly scary.

Three, are the flip-flops a direct consequence of the Sena-BJP divide? This one seems to be the most plausible. It could be that the CM has one eye on the 2017 BMC polls, which the two parties are likely to contest against each other, ending their 22-year alliance. But if the CM is really doing this to score brownie points with his urban voters, it is a really sad joke on the largely civic-conscious citizens of Mumbai.

Four, are the reversals a devious ploy to hoodwink the public? This question is not without reason as recently the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation told the National Green Tribunal that Aarey Colony was not a forest and “just another piece of state government land”. Most shocking about the claim was that it came after the CM had publicly assured that the green cover would be saved at all cost.

The flip-flops may be due to a combination of all the above factors, but what is undeniable is that the city of Mumbai is turning out to be the biggest loser in the ensuing policy paralysis. For a city whose citizens are as aware of their duties as they are of their rights, this is a big letdown by the government that claims to represent them. If the CM does not quickly strike down these anti-people policies — as opposed to merely reviewing them — his party may well find out in February 2017 that the Mumbaikar neither forgets nor forgives.

The recent flip-flop in the open spaces policy is the seventh such instance. Is the BJP's cold war with the Shiv Sena in the run-up to the 2017 BMC polls costing Mumbai dearly?

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