When Devendra Fadnavis, 44, took the oath of office and secrecy as Maharashtra’s chief minister in Mumbai on Friday, biographers of the BJP would have noted it down as a historic moment in the annals of the party. But for Mr Fadnavis and his Cabinet colleagues, it’s time to put sentiment and spectacle aside and get down to the job at hand. Mr Fadnavis has a long and complex list of tasks to accomplish if the party’s first government in the coveted state has to leave its stamp: Fixing the slide in agriculture, augmenting the state’s abysmal irrigation footprint, improving law and order, healthcare and education for all citizens, removing regional disparities, hard-selling the state as an attractive destination for industry and foreign direct investment and vastly improving infrastructure across the state. He will be judged most by his achievements in transforming Mumbai and equipping Tier 2 and 3 cities — Maharashtra has more than any other state.
Moreover, Maharashtra’s economy is among the largest in the country but it’s dragged down by a debt of more than `3 lakh crore. On most economic and social parameters, Maharashtra still ranks among the top three in the country. Despite fierce promotion from neighbouring states such as Gujarat, it got the maximum number of FDI proposals last year. But the dysfunctional, lacklustre and corruption-ridden Congress-NCP combine, in power for three successive terms from 1999, could neither leverage the state’s pre-eminence nor successfully market its strengths. Besides, Mr Fadnavis is best identified as the man who took on the corrupt government. The anti-corruption measures he takes now will be closely scrutinised.
Mr Fadnavis heads a minority government which is vulnerable to tantrums that its small allies and outside supporter such as the NCP may throw. Taking the Shiv Sena on board will give the government the comfort room it needs but it’s easier said than done, given the protracted negotiations with Uddhav Thackeray’s men. Mr Fadnavis’ elevation as chief minister has annoyed senior leaders in the BJP, most of whom will fall in line now but may strike back later. He must also compromise with his vociferous demand as a legislator — for the creation of a separate Vidarbha state. He can neither preside over the breaking up of Maharashtra nor let down his supporters back home. The BJP’s campaign centred on the theme of angry Maharashtrians asking: “Where have you (the then government) taken my Maharashtra?” The Fadnavis government will be judged on where and how far ahead it takes the state.