BJP govt decked up in borrowed feathers

  • Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 16, 2015 21:24 IST

In a year of hype and hyperbole, exaggerated claims and chest thumping, quiet voices often go unheard. But when former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh spoke out last week, in his inimitable understated style, his voice somehow was loud and clear.

Among the many things he said, one phrase hit me in the face and has stuck in my mind: that the BJP is decked up in 'borrowed feathers'. Of course, by now it is obvious that the NDA government at the Centre has merely been repackaging - or more appropriately renaming - all old UPA programmes and presenting them as their own.

Dr Singh was thus justified in making the remark. So I should not really be surprised that even in Maharashtra, most programmes coming out of the government are either those envisioned by past Congress-NCP governments or, if they have been tweaked, they are unworkable - like the development plan or the Metro rail expansion which is hell bent on swallowing up all the open spaces in Bombay at great cost to the environment.

But the 'borrowed feathers' terminology was never more apt when it came to the coastal road for the metropolis. I saw with amusement, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis take the credit for the project and Shiv Sena scion Aaditya Thackeray counter that claim with a clever tweet thanking the CM for keeping the promise made by the Shiv Sena in their manifesto.

The BJP was hardly likely that it would implement a Sena promise as they continue to be bitter rivals despite being allies in government - the BJP would have been fools to give the Sena that advantage ahead of the 2017 corporation elections, presuming all motorists eventually travelling the coastal route will end up at the polling booths in gratitude and not drive down to Lonavla instead on voting day!

But in this fight for credit, what both the BJP and the Sena forgot to tell the people was that the idea for the coastal road originated in the Congress-NCP government -it was the brainchild of former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. As former Congress MLA Krishna Hegde told me in amusement, "The only person who was speaking about a coastal road at all was
Mr Prithviraj Chavan. How come the BJP is taking the credit for it now?''

Hegde is right. Chavan had desperately wanted to implement the coastal road. However, despite the fact that there was the same party's government at the Centre, the UPA's environment ministry repeatedly knocked down the project for precisely such concerns.

But Fadnavis was right in thanking Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar for coming forth so promptly with the permission - we all know by now the NDA pays scant attention to environmental issues and would destroy ecosystems in a jiffy if they were not up against protests by various groups -like Greenpeace and farmers, adivasis, fishermen et al, who see their livelihood being rapidly swallowed up by the overriding emphasis on infrastructure development.

Expressing disappointment at the way the government was going, my friend, Dr Tushar Jagtap, who recently contested a by-election in Bandra (East), told me a while ago, "It is not immediately obvious, but it will soon be apparent that there is really no governance or discipline in the state. Cops and bureaucrats are completely out of control. All their schemes are either vague or weird. The only ones that are working are those visualised by the previous government. In five years, the state will be a complete mess.''

That brought about a sense of déjà vu. For that is the exact argument that had been given by former deputy chief minister Ramrao Adik to Sharad Pawar in 1995, when the first Sena-BJP government had come to power. "It will take us 15 years to clean up the mess."

It really did take them 15 years to bring Maharashtra back on an even keel.

"Give me three years," Pawar had then said. "And I will quit politics if they don't mess it up by then. They will not return to power for the next 15.''

Now that was truly prophetic. How many years does Pawar give this government now, I wonder.

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