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On the right track, but Maharashtra govt has miles to go before 2019

mumbai Updated: Nov 16, 2016 19:27 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, well-aware of the threat from the Shiv Sena, is trying his best to ensure the alliance lasts for a full five years(Vijayanand Gupta/HT)

As the BJP-led government completes two years in power on Monday, with nearly half of its tenure in office over, it’s time to look ahead to 2019.

The coming three years will decide whether Devendra Fadnavis-led government can deliver on its promises and implement big ticket projects and ideas for public good. If the government delivers, it can face next polls with more than a fighting chance.

The going will not be easy as the government’s vision is ambitious. From drought-free Maharashtra to creating a Mumbai Metro network of 173km and building the “game changer” 800-km super communication Mumbai-Nagpur expressway, the government may not be able to deliver on its promises soon.

Even achieving partial success in the next three years may be enough, but will stretch the state administration to its limits and still, perhaps, it may fall short. “If one looks at the number of decisions taken and people-oriented policies introduced, Fadnavis government comes is on the top vis-a-vis his predecessors. He has shown speedier decision-making and has a vision for the state. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” said political analyst Surendra Jondhale.

“Two years is too little to judge how the policies will affect change on ground. A lot would depend on whether these decisions can be effectively translated in the next three years. And that requires a good grip over the entire government machinery,” he added.

While the development agenda may be number one on the list of things for the government to win, it’s not enough. The BJP-led government will also have to balance caste dynamics, with Maratha protests unlikely to die down easily and poised to be anti-government.

The government’s biggest challenge, however, is from within. Its ally and partner in government, Shiv Sena, which slips easily into the role of an opponent and an acerbic critic is the first of the big problems. The other two include intra-party rivalry in the BJP and experience deficit within the cabinet.

“The Maratha mobilisation, which at least partially is triggered by established Maratha leadership’s unhappiness with reforms brought by the Fadnavis government in the co-operative sector, is not a threat in the short term. But it will pose a hurdle ahead of 2019 polls for the BJP,” said political analyst Uttara Sahasrabuddhe.

She said a bigger threat would be in the form of Sena. “Depending on how Mumbai civic polls pan out, the Sena will firm up its plan on staying on or quitting the alliance. Ahead of 2019 polls, it is likely that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray may pull the rug from under the Fadnavis government’s feet,” she said.

Sahasrabuddhe, however, gave a thumbs-up to the government for policies such as the Right to Services Act, Jal Yukt Shivar or the water conservation campaign and urban infrastructure planning, which she says will impact the governance positively in the future.

Fadnavis, well-aware of the threat from the Sena, is trying his best to ensure the alliance lasts for a full five years. In a recent interview to HT, the chief minister reiterated the Sena was a natural ally of his party and he didn’t see the BMC polls, affecting the state alliance until their term was complete.

To his credit, the CM may have a better working relationship with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray than he has with many of his senior colleagues. The recent Maratha protests that for at least two months elicited no real response or strategy from the government showed this lack of team work and intra-party rivalry in the CM’s cabinet.

“I think initially we didn’t know how to react. The chief minister didn’t reach out to all of us.Tthe meetings with Maratha leaders in the party were held a little late in the day and remained inconclusive. No one was given the charge to be the spokesperson for the government,” said a BJP minister.

The absence of team play and an overall experience deficit in the Fadnavis government that has been seen in several controversies in past two years (read: chikki scam, allegations against over half a dozen ministers, Munde and CM spat over Twitter) is further expected to slow down the government’s efficiency in the coming years.

Fadnavis said as a majority of his ministers were first-timers, they had not yet learnt the ropes of administration and bureaucracy. “We have also inherited a system that is insidious and corrupt, with ministers often being waylaid by officers, who have worked in the offices of former ministers and contractor cartels,” he said, in his recent interaction with reporters on Saturday.

The question is whether the Fadnavis-led government can really make any change to this existing system? If senior leader and former revenue minister Eknath Khadse is any example, the answer is no.

Can the government surmount these challenges to prove to be better than the Congress-NCP regime? Going by the last one year, the answer is yes.