Despite all odds on political, economic and social fronts, the young and dynamic leadership of Devendra Fadnavis has many achievements to talk about after two years in office
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is supremely confident of completing his term. He began with a clean slate and without any direct administrative experience. However, he showed his grasp on the affairs of the state and his hold on the bureaucracy in a very short time. This has amazed most political observers. It’s now two years that Fadnavis has been in office. In between, he has had to face many tricky situations but he has overcome almost every problem and become stronger every time.
One impediment perceived to be in his way is the Shiv Sena. The BJP and the Sena are seen constantly sparring on various issues but Fadnavis is unconcerned. He says the BJP and the Sena are in a broad agreement on running the state. As far as some individual issues are concerned, he explains that these are two independent political parties, which fought the Assembly Elections against each other. Therefore, some disagreements are bound to crop up. “But they are not so serious that they will affect the stability of my government,” he asserts.
About the latest challenge for him, that of the silent uprising of the dominant Maratha caste, Fadnavis has a plausible explanation. In an interview to the Organiser, he said, “A large section of the Maratha caste has remained backward. Only about 25 percent of its population has enjoyed any benefits of the political power wielded by its leaders. The remaining 75 per cent have remained deprived. The present silent protest is the manifestation of this majority, which has been ignored by the caste leadership. It must be noted that some political elements tried to grab this initiative for the Maratha protests but the larger community did not allow this to happen.”
Fadnavis said that the silent Maratha marches all across the state had sent a constructive message ‘Peaceful demonstrations can happen in a democracy’. This message is exceedingly heartening.
It is said that one provocation for the sudden eruption of Maratha marches was the heinous crime against a young girl belonging to the Maratha community by some Dalit youths. Against this background, a demand was raised to scrap the Anti-Atrocity Act. Immediately, the vocal opposition was expressed to this demand though there is unanimity that the perpetrators of this crime must be hanged. Fadnavis said that his government will support the demand for death penalty for the guilty. “But the suggestion to abolish or dilute the Anti-Atrocity Act will not be considered by the Maharashtra government,” he emphatically added.
Various insinuations are being whispered over the issue of refusing reservation for Muslims by the State Government. The tacit criticism is that the BJP is against this because of its Hindutva agenda. Fadanvis smoothly refutes this contention when he says that the BJP’s stand is clear in this regard. The Constitution does not allow religion-based reservations and the State Government will work as per the Constitution. He gives one example to bolster his stand. He says, the five per cent reservation announced by the earlier Congress-NCP government could only mean a quota of just 300 seats out of 6000 government seats. On the other hand, the EBC upgradation decision has opened the door for students to try to occupy one of the three lakh seats in the private sector. “When we raised the bar of income to Rs 6 lakh per year for a family, it was not only for the Maratha community. It is going to benefit the Muslims, Christians and other poorer sections who cannot afford higher education in private institutions because of the high fees,” he said.
Rebutting the veiled charge that the BJP is against the Muslims, Fadnavis says, “We have devised a model of mainstreaming Muslims and reducing radicalization. This model has been praised across the country. It is based on a three-prong formula: education, training, and employment. The previous government only paid lip service to minorities for vote-bank politics. We are taking some concrete steps for them.”
These and other challenges have not demoralised Fadnavis, rather this resolve to undertake more development projects for a bright future and a stable government has only firmed up.
The clean image of Devendra Fadnavis's is widely seen as its unique selling proposition (USP) and has been coming handy as the single most positive aspect despite many internal and external challenges his government faces. Most political observers describe the achievements of the government in the last two years as “a mixed bag” but do not blame Fadanvis for this. His intentions and development thrust are welcome but the efforts of Fadnavis have not yielded desired results since his team comprises mostly first-time ministers, who are gradually learning the ropes and have started showing their zeal to perform.
Fadnavis (46) was sworn in on October 31, 2014, to head a government which lacked an absolute majority in the legislative assembly. The BJP and the Sena, whose electoral partnership began way back in 1986, had fought elections against each other and the Fadanvis government was offered an outside support by Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). But the Sena soon joined the alliance and became a part of the government. It was already in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre. While there is hardly any tension regarding the arrangement at the Centre, the alliance in Maharashtra is uneasy. Despite this, the two parties have announced their decision to contest the impending local body elections together. This has opened the prospect for their combined onslaught for the Zilla Parishad elections which will take place some time later.
Fadnavis has had a tough time over the episode involving his Virtual No 2 in the Cabinet, Eknath Khadse, over certain allegations of irregularities. At present, a probe has been going on against Khadse. But Fadnavis feels confident that these will prove to be untrue and Khadse will return to the government unscathed. However,
Fadnavis has proved that he enjoys the trust and confidence of the BJP's Central leaders, since the Khadse episode did not result in any fallout.
Fadnavis rationalises his mediation between the film industry and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray over the release of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”, after MNS issued threats to prevent its release since it had a Pakistani actor in its star cast. Fadnavis has time and again clarified that his discussions did not cover the monetary element of the truce. He justifies his intervention, saying that he did not wish that there should be any tension during the festival season. His stand has been welcomed by the multitude.
Fadnavis has initiated the ambitious Jalyukt Shivar programme, which promises to change the complexion of rural Maharashtra as it will be taken forward in conjunction with other plans to make the farmer financially strong. This has endeared him to the masses. His confidence manifests through his words and actions. Maharashtra feels fortunate to have such a capable leader. n