Finally, the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government is fir m in saddle with the return of Shiv Sena in the alliance. The 30-strong ministry, including 18 cabinet ministers and 12 junior ministers, is now set to run the government in Maharashtra. After more than 25 years, the state has a government with a strong majority on the floor of the assembly, with about 200 out of 288 MLAs sitting on the treasury benches.
The composition of the ministry and the allocation of portfolios clearly show that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has a firm grip on his government. The Shiv Sena, which has the potential to become a troublesome ally, has been given portfolios that won’t affect the government’s functioning, even if the ministers choose not to cooperate with the chief minister.
With both the chief minister and the government in complete control, the people are now expecting them to deliver. The state is in a mess due to several problems. The growth is slow, industrial investment is below expectation, corruption is rampant and the agrarian crisis is far from over. More than half of the population stays in urban areas, but the cities are in a bad shape with little thought being given to building a systematic infrastructure. To make matters worse, the state has a debt of over Rs3 lakh crore and the fiscal discipline has gone for a toss.
Expectations from the Fadnavis government are high and the chief minister would have to start by making some bitter decisions to improve the situation. Fadnavis has announced some measures to boost manufacturing in the state. His challenge would be to push growth and at the same time keep sections like crisis-hit farmers satisfied by providing them relief even when the state coffers are empty.
However, his biggest challenge could be improving the functioning of the government, especially the administration that implements the ruling party’s plans and policies.
Keeping in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to replace the key bureaucrats with new ones, Fadnavis has taken a decision and asked his ministers not to employ any officer in their ministerial staff who have worked with Congress-NCP ministers in the past 10 years.
This has invoked mixed reactions from the ministers and the administration. Several ministers from both BJP and Sena would have preferred staff of their choice and hence are unhappy with the decision. While ministers’ staff was responsible for corruption in many cases in the past, there were also some efficient ones, whose experience would help improve delivery mechanism, they argue. The diktat has also stirred up a debate in the government circles. Many say, Fadnavis’ clean-up operation would remain incomplete or just symbolic if he stops at ministerial staff.
He should also take a look at the IAS officers who have been heading certain departments for years, feel many in the government. Their decisions were criticised by the BJP while in opposition and now the same lot is heading crucial departments, including those being handled by the chief minister himself.
Further, he won’t achieve much success unless he breaks the unholy and corrupt nexus between contractors, politicians and bureaucrats that has thrived in the state. Though the new government has taken over, the same set of contractors is seen making rounds of offices and residences of ministers to continue with their businesses. If the previous governments drew flak for corruption, the corrupt contractors and suppliers were as much responsible as the ministers and the bureaucracy — scams that took place in irrigation or supply of food to poor children under government schemes were clear examples of the same.
Fadnavis will have to show tremendous courage to break this nexus and if he manages to achieve it, there will be a new beginning in the governance front in Maharashtra.