The need for some patience and introspection
It’s been barely two months since former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the members of his cabinet have been divested of their roles in the Maharashtra government, and yet they seem to believe they can blame the new government on all issues – farm loan waivers, failure in industrial output, and water supply in drought-hit areas, among other things – that ail the state.
Even in case of the Bhima-Koregaon violence of 2018, two years after the incident and several arrests in the matter, the Pune police have still not been able to establish the guilt of activists beyond reasonable doubt. Unsurprisingly, among the first acts of the new Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was to indicate that they would relook at charges against everybody whose guilt was not established.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar even wrote to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to reinvestigate the cases, just a day before the Central government decide to hand over the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The decision – without consultation with the state home department – brought charges from even the Left parties that the cases were based on falsehoods.
However, taking that decision at face value, I am surprised that the Centre did not see that as an admission of failure by the Fadnavis government to bring the case to a logical conclusion. I would have thought that Fadnavis would be rather miffed at being shown up by the central leadership, but was quite taken aback when he described the action as “appropriate”.
But quite apart from that, after the NIA team reached Pune and failed to secure any documents from the local police, who had not received instructions from the state home department – which is seeking legal opinion against the decision by the Centre – former finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar cried foul. Describing the non-co-operation as unconstitutional, he claimed it would violate the established norms of Centre-State relations.
So who was right? Mungantiwar or state home minister Anil Deshmukh, who accused the Centre of violating constitutional protocol and said the state would consult legal experts to challenge the Centre?
But when former water resources minister from the Fadnavis cabinet, Pankaja Munde, sat on a dharna to draw the government’s attention to the lack of water supply to Marathwada, I thought all former ministers had lost their reason. Now, Munde hails from Marathwada and was overseeing Fadnavis’ flagship programme, Jal Yukta Shivar (JYS). During the campaign for the Assembly polls, they had claimed it as a great success. But here they were now, demanding the provision of adequate water supply to Marathwada and warning the government against discontinuing the JYS scheme which was meant to have made Maharashtra drought-free by 2019. Now, was that an admission of failure by their own government and, if it was, didn’t they see the political sophistry involved in that?
Earlier, in Nashik, when reporters asked Fadnavis what issues he would be challenging the government on, he said without batting an eyelash, “farmers, loan waivers, lack of industrial growth, failure to provide jobs” – in fact all issues associated with his government barely three months ago.
Perhaps it is not Fadnavis’ fault. There is a whole group of people who have kept him insulated from the reality over the past five years and continue to do so even when he is in the Opposition. At the Nashik meeting, he desisted only when his party MLA whispered to him that they had been lately slammed by the then Opposition on these very issues.
People, of course, tend to have short memories and most political parties try to take advantage of that. But clearly the time has been too close. The biggest virtue in politics is not rectitude but patience. Fadnavis and his former ministers need a little bit of both.