Still waiting for Acche Din

The next BMC elections are likely to be the turning point in the relations between the saffron partners- who are not just allies but also rivals of the same votebank. The outcome of the polls will not only decide the fate of the saffron allies but also the fate of the Sena, possibly ushering in new political alignments in state politics. 

When the Devendra Fadnavis government was sworn in last year, there was lot of jubilance. The Narendra Modi government had assumed office five months earlier and the winds of change blowing in the country had encompassed Maharashtra as well. With the same party in power in the state as well as the centre, a positive, significant and visible change was expected in Maharashtra.

However, if the happenings over the past 11 months are any indication, the Fadnavis government still appears to be grappling to come to terms with reality and start delivering what it had promised. In the Fadnavis government, there appears to be a schism not just between the polity and the bureaucracy, but also between the allies running the government.

The manner in which senior bureaucrats are transferred before their stipulated tenure concludes and are shunted frequently from department to department manifests that all is not well with the state’s governance. For instance, the previous municipal commissioner of Mumbai was shifted out of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) before he could complete his tenure, posted in the environment department, but soon shifted out to the finance department. There are ministers and secretaries who have been at loggerheads. There have also been instances of ministers not being able to reply to questions raised in the legislature as a result of the communication gap.

A glaring case of mishandling senior officials was the transfer of the previous police commissioner of Mumbai Rakesh Maria, who was shifted in the middle of investigations over his alleged proximity with some accused persons. Interestingly, Maria was asked to continue with the investigation, which he declined. Later, the jittery goverment handed over the case to the CBI.

Within the ruling alliance, the BJP and the Shiv Sena are hostile towards each other. The BJP had played the second fiddle to the Sena all these years in the state, but after the BJP sweeped the Lok Sabha polls last year, the saffron partners went solo in the subsequent assembly polls in the state. The BJP emerged as the single largest party and after the post-poll alliance, the jingoistic BJP leaders relegated the Sena into playing a secondary role in the government. Consequently, irked Sena ministers like Ravindra Waikar have openly expressed displeasure over being slighted.

The apprehensive Sena is now making all efforts to retain hold over its main citadel- the BMC- which is scheduled to go to polls in 2017. The BJP is making all efforts to dislodge the Sena from the BMC and is leaving no opportunity to dig out scandals in the civic body to expose ‘misgovernance’. The next BMC elections are likely to be the turning point in the relations between the saffron partners- who are not just allies but also rivals of the same votebank. The outcome of the polls will not only decide the fate of the saffron allies but also the fate of the Sena, possibly ushering in new political alignments in state politics.

The BJP had launched a campaign against ministers of the previous government for committing financial irregularities. After coming to power, some cases have been booked and investigations are in progress. According to political sources, putting together the overtures of NCP chief Sharad Pawar towards Modi and the Fadnavis government soft-peddling the corruption cases against senior NCP leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal and Ajit Pawar, the possibility of the BJP dumping the Sena and taking help of parties like the NCP to maintain its numbers in the assembly cannot be ruled out in event of a breakup with Sena after the BMC polls.

The issue of closing toll-nakas was high on the agenda of the BJP before coming to power, but apart from announcing the formation of a committee to look into the issue, nothing has been done. Some toll nakas on roads built by the state’s PWD department have been closed down, but there has been no decision on contentious toll-nakas managed by private entities.

Similarly, notwithstanding the ongoing farmers’ suicides and the drought conditions in several parts of the state, the government is yet to waive loans of farmers. A glaring example of the government’s inability in solving agrarian issues is the suicide by a farmer’s widow Shantabai Tajane (wife of Pralhad Tajane who committed suicide) three months after Fadnavis visited her at the Pimpri Buti village in Yevatmal district of Vidarbha region.

As the captain, Fadnavis is diligent and has a clean image. However, he has kept several key portfolios like home, with himself; is yet to make appointments on state-run corporations; and is so touchy about criticism that his government is planning to slap sedition charges on its critics. The manner in which the state allowed the ordinance on Muslim quota to lapse and the flip flop on beef ban as well banning meat consumption to facilitate the tenets of a community runs contrary to the poll agenda of an all-encompassing development.

The wait for Achhe Din is getting longer than the wait of Vladmir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting For Godot.

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