On October 31, the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra will complete its second year in office. The next few days will witness claims and counterclaims on what the government has done and not done over the past two years. But certain things are clearly visible — there is stability in the government and there is a single line of command.
This is in sharp contrast to the previous four governments – three run by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance between 1999 and 2014 and one by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance that was in power between 1995 and 1999.
In the past two decades, successive governments in Maharashtra were vertically divided with the alliance partners trying to pull them in the directions they wanted. The bickering between the partners often affected the governance. In their three successive tenures, the Congress and the NCP were seen blaming each other for goof-ups and delays in decision-making. The years before the 2014 elections saw the worse with virtually no trust between then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and the NCP leaders.
Under the Fadnavis regime, some key projects are now back on track and may be completed within the deadline. The perception of the policy paralysis is gone and there is a sense of things moving forward.
This will be good for the state in terms of giving a push to developmental initiatives. Fadnavis has also created a buzz to attract investment into the state even though it is not clear how many new manufacturing and service sector units will be set up in Maharashtra. He has also given the much-needed push to the makeover of infrastructure in Mumbai, which had slowed down.
On the other hand, Fadnavis’s major problem seems to be the performance of his ministers. He has shown the ability to handle the administration well, but the opinion about many of his ministers is that they are average. They will have to perform for the government to deliver what was promised to the people.
The government handled the drought situation well, but the problems of the farmers are far from over. Providing the farmers a direct access is a move lauded by the experts but it remains to be seen whether the middlemen who exploit farmers are reined in.
What the Fadnavis government has not managed to control yet is retail corruption. The change in the government is not much visible when people approach various state and local government offices for their work. The government has enacted the Right to Services Act but the impact of the same is not yet felt.
The elections to urban and rural local bodies will show how people react to various decisions taken by the Fadnavis government.
So far, Fadnavis has managed to handle the opposition parties well. Several top leaders from the Congress and the NCP were wary of the action against them in several allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. As such, they were not in a mood to take on the government aggressively. In two years, there was rarely a time when the Opposition cornered the government. The only exception was allegations against former revenue minister Eknath Khadse. For some reasons, the Opposition did not press the charges against other ministers. While Khadse episode was embarrassing for the government, it manages to get rid of the other allegations. And while the opposition parties are still learning how to play a good opposition, it is the ally Shiv Sena which is doing the needful. The Sena leadership is bitter over the raw deal it got while joining the government and now the BJP’s attempts to become big brother in Mumbai.
Still, Fadnavis’s aides are not worried about the Sena. They think the chief minister can maintain cordial relations with the Sena leadership if he has a free hand to do so. His challenge will be the performance of the government. In next three years, it will be under pressure to deliver on its promises as expectations are too high. Will Fadnavis and his team manage that? The jury is still out.