Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assumed power on October 31, 2014, after the Narendra Modi factor propelled the Bharatiya Janata Party to a massive victory in the assembly polls. His rise to power marked a major shift in state politics as it was the first time that a BJP leader took over the state’s reins.
Riding on Modi’s ‘Acche Din’ promise, the BJP state election campaign had promised end to “broken governance”, “policy paralysis” and corruption, and ensure a double-digit agricultural growth and abolition of octroi/local body tax and toll tax regimes, among other things.
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As the government approaches its first milestone — it completes 100 days in office on February 7 — the government’s performance is a mixed bag with some accomplishments and disappointments.
CM in driver’s seat
Doubts were cast on Fadnavis’s ability to run a cabinet with four chief ministerial aspirants and two other ministers known to be close to Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah. Questions were also raised on whether the CM would be able to take ally Shiv Sena along for vital decisions. But judging by the performance so far, it is clear that Fadnavis has his hands firmly on the steering wheel. Following the Modi template, Fadnavis has even held sway over appointment of personal staff of his ministers.
Overcoming policy paralysis
Fadnavis is expected to project that his government’s biggest achievement thus far has been overcoming the policy paralysis, and weak governance that rocked the previous Congress-NCP regime. Replicating Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, Fadnavis has adopted an aggressive stance to try and retain Maharashtra’s status as the most favoured state, kickstarting his own ‘Make in Maharashtra’ initiative. Cutting red tape, he has reduced the number of approvals required to set up industries, launched an online portal for a single window clearance,and raised floor space index (FSI) for industries. But some of his initiatives in this context, including unlocking more agricultural land for industrial activity by amending existing norms and removing curbs for industries to be set up along river basins and proposed labour reforms, among others, have drawn flak. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “Both the Centre and the state have taken some regressive steps on the environment front.”
NCP state chief Sunil Tatkare also lashed out at Fadnavis for scrapping the river regulation zone (RRZ) policy. Fadnavis’s trip to Davos where he held bilateral meetings with several industry captains is being seen as a positive. “I’m an empowered CM, unlike my predecessor (Chavan),” he had recently said. To this, Chavan said: “He is in a better position to deliver since there is no serious alliance pressure.” Fadnavis has also taken certain steps to decentralise decision making and postings for officials.
Thumbs down on farmer strife, right to services
During the election campaign, the BJP promised double digit agriculture growth within a year in power. But faced with a severe drought that has ravaged crops in 24,000 villages, the Fadnavis government has failed to live up to this promise. It has announced an ambitious initiative (Jalyukt Shivar) to drought-proof the state. The Centre’s delay in announcing relief package has provided the Opposition armour to attack the government. “The Centre has twice announced relief to states hit by natural disasters. But Maharashtra was not included. Is this not a big failure of the state government,” Tatkare asked.
Even ally Shiv Sena has taken several digs at the BJP. The Modi government’s decision to discontinue export subsidy for supply of milk powder and the sugarcane crisis too have created a negative sentiment among farmer groups. In fact, BJP ally Swabhimaani Shetkari Sanghthana has even held protests. The government also invited outrage after it discontinued food subsidy to 1.77 crore above the poverty line (APL) people.
Big on noise, low on content
Fadnavis’s first move after being sworn in was to announce his intent to provide Right to Public Services to citizens. But the draft legislation in this regard has been criticised for lacking teeth. Shailesh Gandhi, former chief information commissioner, said, “The Bill is a watered down document of what was promised. It does not reflect the intent Fadnavis spelt out previously. He started off with transparency and anti-corruption as his priority, but his focus has wavered.” Fadnavis’s U-turns on the pre-election promise of abolishing toll, octroi and local body tax have been criticised too.
The big Anti-graft Plank
Delay in approvals to corruption cases against senior bureaucrats and ministers had rocked the previous regime. Building his perception as anti-corruption crusader, Fadnavis has won points by ordered probes in all such high-profile cases. He has also ordered action against bureaucrats shielding tainted officials. The government has also taken steps to break the contractors’ cartel in irrigation projects.
Appealing to GenNext, the Fadnavis government has taken several e-governance initiatives. Besides launching a citizen’s portal for grievance redressal, the CM himself is active on Twitter and Facebook. “This is a twitter government. It speaks a lot, delivers little,” Tatkare said.
The Big Vidarbha push
Fadnavis had raised the separate Vidarbha plank during the election campaign. While the CM has pushed this on the back burner with Shiv Sena against the move, the first 100 days have been marked with several decisions to push the Vidarbha growth chart.
The road ahead
Abhay Pethe, economics professor at Mumbai University, said, “The chief minister’s first major political statement about his priorities will come through the budget — how he makes his plans financially viable. He has the right vision, but if he has to make any major impact, he has to take these bold decisions over the next 1.5 to 2 years.”