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Maharashtra tried to get optics right, bumbled its way through flood crisis | Opinion

From day one, the Fadnavis government has, in a bid to get the optics right, stumbled from one mistake to another over the flood situation in the state. For the first time also, the BJP’s and Chief Minister Fadnavis’ otherwise astute political management has gone awry.

opinion Updated: Aug 13, 2019 19:14 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Shivaji Nagar area in Kolhapur to review rescue and relief operations. CM also met flood-affected people staying at Kalyani Hall in Kolhapur.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Shivaji Nagar area in Kolhapur to review rescue and relief operations. CM also met flood-affected people staying at Kalyani Hall in Kolhapur.(Photo: ANI)
         

As the water started receding from one of Maharashtra’s worst-affected districts Kolhapur, the district administration imposed orders prohibiting public gathering of four or more persons here. The orders were issued by district administration on Monday to ostensibly avoid confusion and chaos during rehabilitation work.

The Opposition, however, termed the prohibition orders as draconian with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) comparing the BJP-led government with that of General Dyer of the Jallianwalla Bagh infamy.

The prohibition orders on a populace that has suffered trauma of floods - losing their homes, belongings and loved ones - by the district administration is the latest in a series of controversies that the Devendra Fadnavis-led government has courted while tackling the floods in Western Maharashtra.

The orders were withdrawn on Tuesday.

From day one, the Fadnavis government has, in a bid to get the optics right, stumbled from one mistake to another over the flood situation in the state.

For the first time also, the BJP’s and Chief Minister Fadnavis’ otherwise astute political management has gone awry and delivered to a defeated Opposition, a readymade issue to hit the government with ahead of the assembly polls in October.

The many controversies include among others, insensitive footage of senior water resources minister Girish Mahajan taking smiling selfies while sitting in a boat amid rescue operations, disbursing food packets with stickers of Fadnavis and other BJP politicians, issuing orders that compensation be only given to those whose homes have been under water for two days etc.

In Sangli, even as floods wrecked havoc, the guardian minister Subhash Deshmukh was away in Pune conducting the party’s organisational workshops.

The nearly week-long floods in western Maharashtra have left over 40 dead and about 5 lakh displaced mainly in the two districts of Kolhapur and Sangli, 370 km from Mumbai.

But the controversies also point to the larger administration and governance deficit of this government.

The BJP-led government, perhaps, started tackling the disaster on the wrong foot.

Devendra Fadnavis was busy with his Mahajanadesh Yatra - to seek people’s blessings ahead of assembly polls - in Vidarbha when the first spell of bad news came in. By the time Fadnavis called off his Yatra last Wednesday and came around to review the flood situation from Mantralaya, the rescue operations already appeared to have been delayed by a day.

“For starters, the government did not take this situation seriously. The local officials underestimated the extent of the floods and the right information did not reach the top brass. Neither the chief minister not his senior ministers reacted soon enough. The delayed response angered people,” said political commentator Prakash Bal.

A senior bureaucrat also told HT that trust deficit between the chief minister and some of his cabinet colleagues as well as officials also may have contributed to the state’s poor handling of the floods.

“As revenue minister, Chandrakant Patil should have handled the situation from day one especially because Fadnavis was away. But, the CM appointed Sena minister Eknath Shinde when he was in the yatra to handle co-ordination,” the bureaucrat added.

But, he explained, district collectors and divisional commissioner report to revenue minister Patil, not Shinde. CM’s close aide Girish Mahajan, who was asked to co-ordinate rescue efforts instead of focusing on backroom job, chose to go and be a part of the rescue to get footage,” added the bureaucrat.

The controversies that followed, Prakash Bal argued, showcased the arrogance of the BJP government on the back of the Lok Sabha victory.

There are no signs still that the government is learning from its mistakes.

On Tuesday, the state cabinet set up an expert committee to study climate change in light of the floods.

But, perhaps, the government should first introspect the way it has handled environment policies in its five-year tenure. Within a year of coming to power in 2015, the government scrapped the river regulatory zone policy. The policy was aimed at regulating industrial construction along banks of the rivers and demarcated zones for polluting industries including a no development zone. The Fadnavis government scrapped it saying the policy came in way of industrial development.

First Published: Aug 13, 2019 18:50 IST

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