Watching Devendra Fadnavis reveal his vision for Maharashtra, I was charmed by the sincerity of Maharashtra’s young chief minister. But soon I had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.
Going digital? Where had I heard it before? Throughout his term as chief minister, Fadnavis’s predecessor Prithviraj Chavan had raved to me about the benefits of fighting corruption through the transparency brought about by computerisation of services. But did the administration ever allow him to achieve what he wanted in full measure.? I think Chavan was driven up the wall on this one. Those who wanted to be corrupt continued to dodge his efforts at transparency. Despite his personal honesty, his was known to be one of the most corrupt regimens of Maharashtra.
Then Fadnavis seems pretty enthusiastic about educational reforms. I remember bursting into peals of laughter as Chavan once told me ,"Everytime I try to raise the issue of educational reforms at any cabinet meeting. There is my own party an to twist my right arm and someone from TNT NCP very happy to twist my left arm. I am unable to do anything at all!"
That is because the state is full of so.- called education barons , by and large its politicians, who have a vested interest in ensuring that no educational reforms go through so that they continue to charge enormous amounts from students for poor quality of facilities and even poorer standard of teachers who, underqualified as they are, are compelled to return half their pay packages back to these barons in gratitude for having been given a job at all when no one else would for their own poor education. Chavan tried doubling and tripling the salaries of even village school teachers by insisting on a post graduation at even the primary levels but no one was interested.
Chavan’s sincerity in tackling drought was never in doubt but we all know what happened to the state’s enormous irrigation resources with its then deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar reduced to urinating in dams to water the fields of our farmers.
And while on the subject of farmers, Fadnavis’s home region of Vidarbha is likely to prove the biggest challenge and headache. I say this now because things have turned completely full circle in the region with the BJP where the Congress used to be with the party now dependent on the strength of its MLAs from Vidarbha to govern Maharashtra. Quite apart from using it to make out a separate case for Vidarbha, I know from conversations with another former chief minister how difficult it is to sort out the problems of the farmers of the region starting with procurement prices and going on to tackling suicides.
Vilasrao Deshmukh used to bemoan the blackmailing tactics of his own party MLAs whomused to encourage their constituent farmers to dampen their cotton produce and pack them with stones to get more out of the government’s minimum offer. But much worse than that attempt at cheating was the profusion of money lenders among politicians of all political parties who have a vested interest in ensuring that no banking reforms go through and farmers continue to be in their grip. That raises a Catch 22 situation for any ruling party which cannot disappoint its MLAs beyond a point while at the same time having to deliver on the reforms.
However, Fadnavis’s plan to actively encourage state micro-financing among farmers and a task force to encourage industrial output in the state are welcome measures which will hopefully bring about lasting changes in these sectors and defeat the vested interests.
The most daunting task, though, is likely to be dealing with the Shiva Sena in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Has anyone ever wondered why Bombay despite being the country’s premier city has worse roads than even Kolhapur or Nagpur? Now I have it from one particular horse’s mouth that for 20 years or more that has been deliberately organised and set up by the powers that be in the BMC. Simply because that keeps the cash flows going, any attempt to give the city a good road for the next ten years would put everyone involved out of pocket. Cynical? I thought so too.
I hope Fadnvis gets to defeat all these malafides and truly make Maharashtra a golden state.