Devendra Fadnavis is set to be become the first Maharashtra Chief Minister (CM) in the past 47 years, to complete a full term. Before him it was only Vasant Rao Naik, who, between 1967-72, completed a full term. This shows that the politics of Maharashtra has been tumultuous and always guided by the “external forces” and in most of the cases the “high command” culture brought forward by the Indian National Congress and its various offshoots. Something has changed post 2014 and in this article I shall try to highlight those. I feel this “change” is permanent and Maharashtra, after decades, has got a leadership which is stable and visionary, something a great state has always deserved.
Before we come to the current affairs, a short history of the volatile leadership that was always offered to the people of the state by the various parties needs a mention.
Vasant Rao Naik remained the Chief Minister of the State for the longest tenure till date. He became CM in 1963 and and was in office for 11 years till 1975 with the first and last term being divided. At that time Maharashtra was a “young state” having been split into Gujarat and Maharashtra from the erstwhile state of Bombay. Situation never improved as far as political stability was concerned. NCP Chief Sharad Pawar became Maharashtra CM four times but never completed a full term. In fact, the total years he was CM is approximately 5 years spread over 3 assembly terms. Shiv Sena-BJP alliance Government of 5 years also saw 2 Chief Ministers — Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane.
So when a Brahmin CM took oath in a Maratha-dominated state and given the above history, nobody had expected him to complete one full term as the CM but Devendra Fadnavis has not only silenced his critics but has completely changed the political landscape of Maharashtra for good.
I have closely studied the 2014 BJP-Maharashtra manifesto. It is divided into 17 sections ranging from safe and secure Maharashtra to jobs to tribal development and social justice. One can try this exercise and all you have to do is I pick up any one promise and do a little research into its status. The results will shock you. Not only has the Devendra Fadnavis Government commissioned work but has completed their mandate as its stated objective. What shocked me was the fact that none of the so-called intelligentsia is talking about this. What had the party in power promised and what has it delivered? Shouldn’t this be the first question anyone is supposed to ask when a term ends and the party in power comes back to seek votes? It is such stunning achievements that have ensured that the party keeps winning every election from Municipality to General elections in the last 5 years in the State. In fact BJP has bettered its 2014 tally.
Security and Safety
When the incumbent CM came to power, the State was reeling under a major security crisis. News was flowing in that a large number of youth were joining ISIS and some terror modules etc., were unearthed as well. Apart from this, the State had seen a number of bomb blasts and terror attacks which need no mentioning. Improving the State of security was priority Number One for the government. After all Maharashtra is the largest contributor to India’s economy and this state needs to be safe to attract the kind of investments it does.
So what did the government do? Firstly, the basic infrastructure of the police force was modernised. They got pensions, housing, revamped police stations, computers and other equipments. The forensic labs were commissioned to improve crime detection. About a thousand police stations across the state were connected to each other which ensured data and information sharing was seamlessly done.
One major activity which was commissioned and completed was the Mumbai CCTV project and launch of Automated Multi-Modal Biometric Identification System (AMBIS) which stores fingerprints, photographs and retinal scans of all the criminals. The result? Zero terror attacks. And the State was able to deal with the naxal menace as well.
Economy and Jobs
Be it the economy or job creation, the State has consistently outperformed the national averages by a mile. A favourable atmosphere for industries prevails in the State with tremendous leaps when it comes to ease of doing business numbers. The reforms like removal of archaic laws tying down businesses and launch of portals like “Aaple Sarkar” have helped businesses to save time and cost and increase efficiency. Invest in Maharashtra has reaped tremendous results with the State being Number 1 when it comes to attracting FDI. Access to electricity backed by supply of power and easing of coal supply has benefitted the industry tremendously. For setting up of new industrial units a single window clearance system was setup and it works like a breeze. IT and ITeS sectors were given special focus because they are good job generators.
Farms and Farmers
What many people don’t realise is that two big regions in one state, Marathwada and Vidarbha, are always reeling under severe drought and they have been long ignored by successive governments. Something had to be done for them and quickly. The first move was to develop rural infrastructure for farms. The CM himself launched the Jal Yukt Shivar Scheme to develop small ponds to provide water for irrigation. The scheme has been a massive success. For the agri produce the State led from the front to unshackle the agriculture produce market commissions. That’s how the decades old control of the APMC was removed and the farmer could sell his or her crop at the choice of his location and price. Farmers in Maharashtra are enjoying the revamped insurance scheme, pension scheme and supply of farm essentials like fertilisers and equipment. Moreover the farmers are also getting access to electricity and solar pumps. Apart from this the cold storage networks are being developed across the state, road infrastructure is giving market access and soil health cards and technological interventions are giving good decision making tools in the hands of the farmers. The state, like I said earlier, craves for water. It is single most essential requirement for the masses. The government has taken massive strides to ensure that water is available to all. Cities after cities are getting rid of the tankers because the Dam water management is now being run professionally. We have left behind the Ghose of the irrigation scams behind and taken strides towards the future.
Ease of living should have always been an agenda for the any government. Unfortunately that had to be a focus only in 2014. On a day to day basis the citizens do interact with the state machinery and delays in their work not only cause hardships but are a sore pain to the citizens. At the policy level the laws were passed and revamped making provision of services a right for the people and a duty for the government.
For implementing these ethos, a portal named “Aaple Sarkar” was launched whereby 400 services across 39 departments are being provided online. This reduced time, cost and most importantly harassment and corruption for the citizens. To curb corruption and for bringing transparency in government offices, the work of all government offices is now digitised. People are getting relevant information and documents such as land record of farmers, through the internet, free of cost.
Maharashtra has always been an urban State. Government is building 10 new smart cities which will provide ease of living to the people. Play grounds, parks and open spaces are being built via flexible FSI policy. These cities are within a network of expressways which are being developed and important cities like Mumbai- Jalgaon-Nagpur-Nanded-Solapur– Kolhapur- Ratnagiri and Pune are seeing never before scale of connectivity. A city needs an excellent and credible public transport system will be built which will create more employment opportunities for the youth.
Caste Equations & Maharashtra
During this tenure, the Maharashtra BJP faced a tremendous flak from the Maratha community. Their demands were about reservations in jobs and education. Silent protests, walks and huge rallies were carried out by the community across the state. Many had started predicting that this will lead to a downfall of Devendra Fadnavis and that the BJP shall be forced to change the CM and appoint a popular Maratha leader. It’s a matter of record that CM Devendra Fadnavis not only listened to the Maratha community’s demands but also fulfilled them. This was a shocker to the opposition parties. This was something that they too couldn’t achieve but Fadnavis could. Such a major move gave the BJP immediate acceptability in three areas where they were considered “weak” organisation wise i.e. Marathwada, Vidarbha and the sugar belt of Western Maharashtra. This is reflected in the fact that a lot of municipalities in these areas are now controlled by the BJP.
Against this backdrop itself one has to see the events where local but strong leaders from Congress and NCP are ditching the mother ship and joining BJP. They see no future in politics of caste and broken promises. The entire focus has been shifted to development and delivery. BJP has offered a stable and result oriented government to Maharashtra and this itself has changed the politics in the state forever and the state shall keep benefitting from this in the decades to come.
(The writer is a Pune-based columnist)