The pressure on Maharashtra Chief Minister – Fadnavis

After the election of Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha, there were a number of elections that happened in various states, primarily Congress ruled ones. So, for example, the large states of Haryana, J & K and Maharashtra had the Congress as the ruling party (in alliance with major and minor partners) while Jharkand had the BJP as the ruling party. Due to the number of seats picked up from these states during the Lok Sabha elections and the continued popularity of Narendra Modi, it was expected that these elections would see a resurgent BJP, and the elections did not surprise. In J&K, the elections brought forward a hung assembly although the BJP emerged as the top party in Jammu; in the other 3 states, the BJP was in a top position.
In Maharashtra, the BJP was so confident that it did not even seriously try an alliance with the Shiv Sena, facing which the NCP and the Congress also decided to fight the elections separately. The only surprise that the results got for the BJP was that they were not able to form the Government on their own, and kept the Shiv Sena on tenterhooks, taking the support of the NCP for some time until finally tying up with the Shiv Sena for an alliance. This putting down of the Shiv Sena is something that rankles the Sena till this date, and the snide comments from the Sena on a regular basis keep on continuing.
The BJP seemingly got a fresh new face, in the form of Devendra Fadnavis, a relatively young (age 44) chief minister. He has risen from a political family and has been in politics as a young face, rising from the ranks through the corporations and then coming into the state assembly. In that sense, he is not a fresh face but because of his young age, he was seen as the closest the BJP could come to having a fresh face rather than the 60+ politicians who normally would become the Chief Ministers. The expectations are that he would bring in much-needed energy to the state, which during the past few years was losing its development lead among the other states, and in fact, losing out to its northern state, Gujarat.

The BJP did start out on a wrong foot, since taking support from a party seen as corrupt as the NCP meant that it was already showing that it was not really upto following any principles, but then you have to give a new Government some honeymoon. The selection of Fadnavis did show a lot of positives, but after some months, there are some negatives showing up. The success or failure of a Government depends on the real work it does, but also depends on perception, and there has been a sudden change of perception, something that Fadnavis will have to fight. For some time, there have been stories doing the rounds of how, like Akhilesh Yadav in UP, other ministers in the state do not really believe they have to answer to the Chief Minister, and he is struggling to make his writ run on some of the senior leaders in the state administration. The struggle is especially problematic with respect to Eknath Khadse (who was the excise minister and who put the blame of the hooch tragedy on Fadnavis). And then some of the perennial problems came up again, and the Government has been found wanting. Rains inundating Mumbai, a hooch tragedy that kills more than a 100 low income people (these should not be called tragedies, but murders because of the periodicity with which they happen), and then a whiff of scandals associated with Vinod Tawde (multiple problems against him) as well as the one against Pankaja Munde, all start to reek of what happened during the Congress rule. The progress is the same – there is a whiff of a scandal, the party and ministers deny and claim that there is no question of any resignation, the press blows this up for some time, the profile of the party starts to fall and get associated with taint, and then some time later, the party has to give up these tainted people (and then take them back after some time).
It is still early days, and there is a lot that the Maharashtra BJP Government can do to better its image. However, if it starts getting the taint of corruption, it will lose all its energy just fighting this taint. It has taken some steps apparently to decrease the chance of corruption happening, but needs to ensure that institutions are in place to investigate and prosecute, because there will be cases when its ministers are found with their hands tainted, and the Government has to take the necessary action.

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