- Devendra Fadnavis is a ‘yes-man’ to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
- He exploited the Eknath Khadse controversy to get rid of a strong opponent.
- The failure to deal with water shortages, farmer suicides and Maratha agitation has added to the losses faced by Maharashtra.
- The IPL and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil controversies only further reflect how poorly issues were tackled within Maharashtra under Fadnavis.
It is that time of the year when Diwali is being celebrated along with the completion of two years of state government in Maharashtra. Frankly speaking, these are mere anniversaries that are celebrated to keep up with tradition. A usual show of dinners and parties. No surprise that we get to read lavish praises showered on the Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis for his achievements!
Mr Clean Fadnavis has certainly fulfilled the main criterion of being a ‘yes-man’ of his bosses, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah. However, he has struggled to keep his flock together within his cabinet.
Eknath Khadse, Multiple Scams and a Tarnished Image
When the name of his arch competitor, Eknath Khadse was dragged into two scams - calls to Dawood Ibrahim and Pune land sale - Fadnavis saw this as an opportunity. He not only ensured Khadse's removal, but also sent a message that he believed in transparent governance.
One of his few achievements was bringing foreign companies to Maharashtra, with MOUs running into the hundreds of crores. This has now been struck off the list; Foxconn, a major foreign company, has failed to set up a manufacturing unit in Maharashtra despite an inauguration ceremony nearly a year ago.
Realistically, Fadnavis’ image got tarnished mainly for his inaction against ministers in his cabinet allegedly involved in a number of scams. To name a few, the ‘chikki’ scam of Pankaja Munde, the land grab allegation against Girish Mahajan, the alleged involvement of Girish Bapat in dal prices scam, the solar power lamps scam in Chandrashekhar Bawankule's ministry, and the fake degree claims made by education minister Vinod Tawade himself - yet all these ministers continue to be in the Fadnavis cabinet.
Beef Ban, IPL and Other Woes of Maharashtra
Then came an intrusion into personal lives as people were forced to forgo certain kinds of meat. For the last 50 years, Maharashtra had a ban on cow slaughter, but the Fadnavis government went a step further and included a ban on eating beef altogether.
Meanwhile, Fadnavis was criticised for his inability to assess the drought situation in 2015. By February, the Meteorological Department had predicted a below average monsoon in Maharashtra. One would have expected this government to act swiftly. While in opposition, the BJP had criticised the Congress-NCP govt for its mishandling of the drought situation.
However, sadly, Maharashtra witnessed over 3,000 farmer suicides between 2015- 2016 when a BJP-led govt was in power. Very carefully, IPL cricket matches and BCCI were painted as the villains.
Despite the fact the grounds were not being watered by potable water, the government supported the move to shift venues. The media focus too shifted from failure of government in addressing the drought situation to IPL matches being the cause of water crisis in Maharashtra.
Fadnavis’ Failure to Understand Marathas, Among Others
While Fadnavis has barely managed to take stock of the pertinent problems, the fact is, he has also not been able to handle the bickering with the alliance partner, Shiv Sena. The party led by Uddhav Thackeray has been highly critical of the inept functioning state and central governments. Party mouthpiece Saamana has been critical of the Fadnavis government on a daily basis.
Speaking of pre-poll promises made by Fadnavis, one major failure has been the Maratha reservation issue. Fadnavis and his government have failed to understand the Maratha caste issue and their silent protests since the Kopardi rape case that happened in July this year.
In Bombay High Court and Supreme Court, the Fadnavis government failed to present its positions on Maratha and Muslim reservations, Dance Bars and the 'Make in India,' venue at Girgaum Chowpatty, where the stage caught fire.
The last setback to Fadnavis was his incompetence in dealing with the controversy surroundin the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. After the chief of Maharashtra Navanirman Sena Raj Thackeray threatened to disrupt the theatre release, Fadnavis called the producers and Thackeray to broker a deal, which sent out a wrong signal. If Fadnavis thought this move would help the BJP in 2017 civic elections, he was wrong.
(Neeta Kolhatkar is a senior journalist with over 25 years of experience.This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)