Will invest ₹50,000cr-₹75,000cr to tackle drought if voted back: Devendra Fadnavis
Chief minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis, who is on the Mahajanadesh Yatra, in an interview to Hindustan Times, said that in his second stint in power, he plans to tackle drought as it is one of the most serious challenges in the state. The CM is planning on a ₹50,000 crore -₹75,000 crore investment to divert surplus waters to deficit river basins as a permanent solution to drought. Fadnavis, who spoke to HT on a range of issues, also said that while BJP could have come to power on its own, it will not break up with ally Shiv Sena. “We cannot change friends or make new rules of engagements,’’ he said. Excerpts from the interview.
What is the vision document for Fadnavis government 2.0, if you come back to power in the Assembly polls ?
The biggest challenge for us in Maharashtra is drought. Drought has become a grim reality. In the last six years, we have faced drought or scarcity for five years. If we can bring surplus water that goes waste to our deficit river basins, we can free Maharashtra from drought. That will be our plan. Part of this is to bring in nearly 167 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) of water, which flows into the sea from Konkan to Godavari basin, and free parts of urban Maharashtra and Marathwada from scarcity. In case of water from Wainganga River, which flows to Telangana, we have 100 TMC of our water share. We plan to bring this to eastern and western Vidarbha through 480km of tunnels. We also plan to get our share of water from Madhya Pradesh through mega recharge into the Tapi river basin. So there’s going to be mega investment in water in the next five years. My rough estimates say that this investment will be to the tune of ₹50,000 crore - ₹75,000 crore. It may seem like a huge figure, but I am not daunted by it. In the last five years, I have understood economies of scale. Our infrastructure investment in Maharashtra stands at nearly ₹2.50 lakh crore.
So, the focus in the next five years will be on rural areas ?
Yes, we will have to do this. In Maharashtra’s cities, we have worked quite a bit in the last five years. We have made big investments in transport, sewerage and infrastructure. Here, our focus will be to complete projects that we have undertaken like in Mumbai. We have also invested in rural infrastructure. For instance, we have built nearly 30,000 km of roads in rural areas, we have brought water to 18,000 villages. We have to now take the next step here.
Maharashtra has as many as 40 to 50 lakh unemployed youth. How do plan to tackle this and are initiatives, such as the new industrial policy or CM employment generation scheme, enough to redress the issue?
I won’t say the state doesn’t have unemployment but I think it is more a problem of underemployment. Despite this, we have generated 25% of the total employment opportunities in the country, even though we account for only 9.5% of the total population. Beyond manufacturing and boost to small and medium-scale enterprises, we are stressing on the service sector. For instance, in rural areas, we have started the SMART scheme with the World Bank worth ₹3,000 crore to set up 10,000 agri-business societies. I see them as engines of growth in rural areas.
You have said that BJP and Shiv Sena will contest together, but there’s a section of people within your own party who think it would be better if your party contests on its own, especially on the back of a sweeping Lok Sabha mandate.
We finalised a deal before the Lok Sabha polls that we will contest together. It is true that in the name of Modiji, everybody wants to vote for us. But we cannot change friends every day or change rules of engagement or break our alliances. We could have won on our own but we plan to stick to the decision to contest together. Sometimes, one has to look at the bigger picture. And in this case, it is to have an ally with whom you share an ideology and have an affinity with. Even in Bihar, the BJP had won 22 seats but agreed to contest 17 seats in a seat-sharing agreement. In Maharashtra, we will definitely not win less seats. We will do better than last time. I can say confidently that BJP’s win will be unprecedented.
What is the seat sharing formula with Sena ?
We will share seats equally after keeping some seats aside for our smaller allies. For instance, if we keep aside 38 seats for our smaller allies, the remaining 250 seats will be shared equally between the two of us. In this, we will keep the seats we have won and vice versa. We may swap some seats. The seat-sharing agreement will be announced by the end of the month.
One of your ministers, Girish Mahajan, said that as many as 50 Congress-NCP members are in talks with BJP. How many of your candidates will be from the Opposition?
What Girish Mahajan said is true. A majority of Opposition leaders want to join us. However, we don’t have that many vacancies. Our policy is not to take [them] all. We will take a few who are good. We took four legislators recently – they are established leaders, none of them have any probes or inquiries against them.
Like you, Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray is on another yatra across the state. His party has projected him as a future CM candidate. Your comments?
Aaditya is an upcoming youth leader. He understands issues, is keen to work and touring the state. It’s a good thing. We need new leadership in the state. I see this positively. As far as the CM candidate goes, that is his party’s prerogative. It has been repeatedly said by Sena leaders that the alliance deal between the BJP and Sena meant equally sharing of posts, including that of the CM. I have said what I had to at the press conference when we announced the deal ahead of Lok Sabha polls. You can read between the lines. There will come a time when we can spell out our stance. As far as who will be the CM.. I am sitting right here in front of you. We had offered deputy chief minister post to Shiv Sena ahead of the last cabinet reshuffle, but they did not take up this offer then.
The state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil recently said that if party gives him CM post, he will not leave it. There is speculation that post polls, you may go to Delhi.
Chandrakantdada is a party worker at heart. If you ask any of our hardcore workers, s/he will say that I’ll do any job that my party entrusts me. So, dada answered in this vein. He also probably doesn’t get the googly questions that you reporters throw at him at times. And I have already said I am going to come back after the Assembly polls. One can’t predict anything in politics but I don’t see a huge problem in completing another term.
There has been a perception of an ongoing turf war between NCP chief Sharad Pawar and yourself. In this election, will we see a finale to this?
I don’t really fight or compete with anyone. I am not even a political person. There had been a consistent attempt in the last five years to create negativity through various agitations. That challenge was more from NCP than Congress but we could turn that negativity into positivity. It’s an irony that the person [Pawar], who in his lifetime was known for splitting parties, hijacking someone’s election and engaging in political conspiracies, is now accusing us of the same.