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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Maharashtra CM Fadnavis at the top: What has changed, what hasn’t?

As it completes four years in office, here is a look at the things that have changed and the aspects that have remained the same

mumbai Updated: Oct 30, 2018 00:29 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
On October 31, 2014, the first BJP led government came to power with Devendra Fadnavis taking over as 27th chief minister of Maharashtra.
On October 31, 2014, the first BJP led government came to power with Devendra Fadnavis taking over as 27th chief minister of Maharashtra.(HT FILE)

On October 31, 2014, the first BJP-led government came to power with Devendra Fadnavis taking over as 27th chief minister of Maharashtra. On several fronts, the Fadnavis government has been different that the previous governments in past two decades since the era of alliance government started in Maharashtra. As it completes four years in office, here is a look at the things that have changed and the aspects that have remained the same.

So, what has changed?

Not a divided house: From 1995 to 2014, successive governments that came to power were vertically divided due to differences between the two ruling partners. First it was Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, followed by three tenures of Congress-NCP government. There was constant cold war between the ruling partners and at times, important decisions were affected. In case of Fadnavis government, the BJP is dominant partner and the government is not a divided house.

CM is supreme: Since the BJP is dominant partner, Chief Minister Fadnavis can assert his authority as was seen from time to time. Previous four governments saw the chief minister had to do a balancing act to keep the allies in good humour. Having a CM who is completely in charge of his government makes things better for the governance. It also means the government is decisive.

Thrust on infrastructure: Compared to the previous government, Fadnavis government has given a significant boost to rebuilding infrastructure which is urgent necessity in Maharashtra. Fadnavis’ thrust to building network of metro in Mumbai as well as other transport infrastructure along with new growth centres is a significant step since the push to the infrastructure during Vilasrao Deshmukh’s tenure as chief minister.

Read more: NCP’s ‘50% challenge’ for Congress

Blessings from Delhi: A significant change from the previous three regimes is the way Central government of the same party responded when Maharashtra government sought help. A classic example was the Navi Mumbai airport which got delayed because UPA government at the Centre was unwilling to speed it up. It is now on track. In fact, even the politically significant projects such as memorials of King Shivaji and B R Ambedkar were delayed as approvals from the Centre did not come in time.

Focus of governance: During 1999 to 2014, often the focus of the government was survival and handling short term issues though there were some exceptions. During the Fadnavis government tenure, it is visible that the person at the top has a plan and attempts are being to implement it. Also, the decisions that would yield political dividends are taken swiftly.

Better Marketing/advertising: This has been the USP of Fadnavis government. Just like the Central government, it knows how to use marketing and advertising tools effectively to stress that the government is performing. Several schemes/projects similar to current government were also undertaken by the previous government but without marketing them well.

What hasn’t changed?

While there are several positives that Fadnavis government can boast of, there are certain things that have not changed. And this remains a shortcoming or challenge for Fadnavis.

Allegations of corruption: Corruption was a poll plank used effectively by the BJP to win 2014 elections. In the backdrop of allegations of corruption against the Congress-NCP, the BJP had promised clean administration. The performance on that front has not exactly been an achievement for Fadnavis. Several ministers in his team faced corruption allegations but except Khadse nobody faced action.

Retail corruption: The retail corruption on lower levels of administration where citizen-government interface happens has not reduced much. For most common citizens, the corruption they face in everyday life is an indicator of how a government is functioning.

Farm sector crisis: The Congress-NCP governments faced flak for not handling the agricultural crisis effectively. Suicides of farmers were on the rise at an alarming rate. Four years of governance and the BJP government too is finding it difficult to handle the farm sector crisis.

Unemployment: This has been a major problem with successive governments and the current government is not an exception. Unemployment, especially in rural areas continues to be a major concern.

Populist decisions: Call it political compulsion or fear of losing popular support, the government resorted to a number of populist decisions to appease different sections of the electorate. This is no different than what the pervious regimes did.

Fiscal indiscipline: Resorting to populism was bound to impact fiscal discipline of the state. The debt burden on the state is increasing. With various decisions from farm loan waiver to statues worth hundreds of crores, the government will be spending a significant chunk of its revenue on implementation of these populist decisions.

In a nutshell, the current BJP government and previous governments have some things in common and some not. How much of that translates on ground and people feel the difference will be one of the factors that will decide whether Fadnavis returns to power. Of course, the outcome will also depend on political and caste equations, Fadnavis’ election strategy and what people think about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

First Published: Oct 30, 2018 00:28 IST

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