Five challenges the BJP faces in Maharashtra as Fadnavis govt completes three years in power
As Maharashtra’s BJP-led government completes three years in power on Tuesday, HT looks at the five big challenges it will face in the coming two years, before the 2019 polls.mumbai Updated: Oct 30, 2017 14:09 IST
As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) makes plans to celebrate its third anniversary in Maharashtra on October 31, and as the Opposition launches agitations to protest its actions and decisions, HT looks ahead at the challenges this government faces over the next couple of years, before the 2019 Assembly elections.
In a recent interview with HT, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis admitted that while he is satisfied with the work done by his government, he is dissatisfied with the amount that remains to be done.
After taking up the agenda of infrastructure so aggressively, the government will now have to deliver through timely execution of projects. At stake is more than half a dozen big-ticket projects, including two elevated Mumbai Metro lines, the new airport, the trans-harbour link, 50-odd ongoing irrigation projects, and nearly 10,000 km of roadworks. Unless some of these projects are completed by the 2019 Assembly polls, the BJP-led government runs the risk of losing voter confidence that it will deliver on its promises.
Scams and corruption allegations
After coming to power on the plank of non-corruption, the Fadnavis-led government has undone its own USP of “being different”. Several ministers in the Cabinet have faced allegations of corruption, with former senior minister Eknath Khadse even having to step down for it. Currently, two probes are underway against two sitting ministers, housing minister Prakash Mehta and industries minister Subhash Desai.
The BJP’s tactic of welcoming all electorally sound leaders at the cost of its clean image, like latest entrant former CM Narayan Rane, is also not going down well with the mandate. Other than the CM, who continues to enjoy a clean image, the BJP in the state has lost its moral halo. If similar allegations and scams continue over the next two years, tables may turn against the Fadnavis-led government.
The recent loan waiver scheme announced by the government can be its trump card to win brownie points with farmers, who are reeling under the burden of agrarian issues and loans. However, the timing and the implementation of the loan waiver - currently wound up in technical glitches - leaves a lot of chance. Unless the government succeeds in increasing investment in agriculture and ups irrigation capacity to an extent, long-term issues such as falling market prices will not be resolved, and farmer suicides may remain a problem. Farmers’ discontent in face of poor implementation of the waiver scheme and continued uncertainties in the future could hurt the government.
Concern about state’s finances
The farm loan waiver and the Seventh Pay Commission will flatten the state exchequer in the coming two years, leaving the state with no option but to borrow more to deliver on its development agenda. The state’s debt has already increased by over Rs 1 lakh crore over the past three years, and a similar burden is quite likely over the next two years.
While state debt is still within the limits set by the Centre, vis-a-vis its ratio to state GDP, a lot depends on how the government plans to service this debt and whether its revenue projects will meet targets. Last year, the state failed to achieve its targets as demonetisation had a cascading impact on its estimated real estate earnings. So far, the realty sector has not recovered, and recovery after GST has not begun.
The Fadnavis-led government needs stability over the next two years to focus on executing its plans and promises, but relations between the saffron allies, the BJP and the Shiv Sena, are close to breaking point. More than the Opposition, it’s the Sena that has been a constant critic of the government in the state as well as at the Centre, though it shares power with the BJP. It has tried to do maximum damage to the government’s credibility. One of the biggest challenges for Fadnavis will be ensuring that the enmity between the allies does not compromise governance.