Devendra Fadnavis has a tough job at hand.
Riding on the anti-incumbency against the Congress-NCP alliance government that ruled the state for 15 years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has formed its first government in Maharashtra. Naturally, the expectations from people are high, and it is up to Fadnavis to ensure his government fulfils them.
Considering the way the BJP has criticised the previous Congress-NCP regime, Fadnavis’ priority could be to provide clean and effective governance.
He will have to root out corruption and ensure efficiency in administration. He has taken the first step by announcing his intention to enact the Right to Service legislation in the state. People are also expecting him to take the probe into cases, such as the irrigation scam, to logical conclusions, and punish the guilty.
Fadnavis’ real test will be the handling of the state’s finances. Maharashtra has a debt of more than Rs3 lakh crore. His government will need funds to launch new projects and initiatives. But, the BJP had promised to scrap toll tax and taxes such as octroi and local body tax. Decisions like these will further reduce the revenue. Although Fadnavis can expect the Centre to provide him funds where needed, this may not be enough and he will have to increase the state’s revenue without hurting interests of sections that have voted for the BJP.
Political management will be another area where he faces a tough test. Friday’s developments suggest there is likelyhood of the BJP reuniting with the Shiv Sena. If that happens, Fadnavis will have a strong majority on the floor of the house.
But, he will still need a political team to handle a mercurial ally like the Sena, or for floor management in the legislature and to ensure party’s success in the Rajya Sabha and legislative council elections.
His political skills will be put to test over Vidarbha statehood issue, of which he has been a strong advocate. The BJP is likely to keep the issue on the backburner, as it doesn’t have the numbers in the Assembly to pass a legislation to divide the state.
Fadnavis will have to face the wrath of the people in Vidarbha if they don’t see development in the region. However, at the same time, he will have to ensure other regions don’t feel neglected during his tenure.
After assuming office, Fadnavis said his priority was to bring the state back on top. Maharashtra used to be a leading state on the industrial and investment front, but started to slip because of squabbles between allies in the previous regime. Fadnavis will have to attract more investment to the state and while doing so, will have to compete with states like Gujarat.
Will he be able to take decisions to score over the state of his political bosses? It remains to be seen.