Mumbai, Oct 31: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadvis on Monday completed two years in office — and the ride so far has been rough, but the road ahead appears equally tough. Sworn-in as the head of a rickety minority government with exterl support from the mercurial tiolist Congress Party, Fadvis breathed easily only five weeks later when its time-tested ally Shiv Se ‘defected’ to the government from the Opposition.
However, his ‘Mr. Clean’ image notwithstanding, he faced real opposition from within — both by his ambitious colleagues in the Bharatiya Jata Party and the blow-hot-blow-cold ally Shiv Se. The Congress-led opposition has also kept him on his toes, but the real threat is expected only when he faces an opposition-sponsored no-trust move and a breach of privilege motion during the winter session of the state legislature in gpur, in December.
The Shiv Se has continued to play truant during most of the past two years — with severe criticism in public and in private and through stinging editorials in the party mouthpieces, Saama and Dopahar Ka Saama.
At times, it appeared Fadvis was literally ‘sleeping with an embedded enemy’ as the opposition parties threw the gauntlet at Shiv Se to “show guts and get out” (of government).
But it was Fadvis’s diplomatic skills, coupled with his dark statement that ‘he had files ready’ on everybody, besides a warm persol rapport with Shiv Se chief Uddhav Thackeray and the confidence of the BJP central leadership, that he has maged to surf through smoothly.
“I’m here for five years ... I am stable,” he confidently asserted on the eve of completion of two years in office. Challenges came on other fronts, too, like allegations of corruption against some of his cabinet colleagues which he contemptuously dismissed. “There have not been any scams in the past two years... There have been charges of corruption, yes... but they were only that, not backed up with evidences or documents,” Fadvis observed.
On his senior-most colleague Ekth Khadse, who had to quit the cabinet under a cloud, Fadvis expressed confidence that he (Khadse) would emerge clean and return to the cabinet soon.
But the Congress pounced on him for what it dubbed as ‘double standards’ on corruption — and senior Congress leader Sanjay Dutt termed the statement hinting at Khadse’s return as an attempt to subvert the probe against the ex-minister.
There is the ongoing agitation by the politically powerful Maratha community, seeking reservations and amendments to the atrocities laws, on which the government sits on a sticky wicket, while Maratha strongman and NCP chief Sharad Pawar enjoys Fadvis’s dilemma.
Though Fadvis says the government is committed to reservations, it could open a Pandora’s box of similar demands from the Muslims and other smaller but significant communities — and it could be a genie difficult to bottle. But, thanks to support from the central leadership, he neutralised interl challenges to his leadership and claims to the CM’s seat by some of his cabinet colleagues.
Yet, the two ruling allies continue to be at loggerheads over a separate state of Vidarbha. The Shiv Se demands a clear statement on the issue of a ‘united Maharashtra’ from Fadvis, especially since the BJP is in favour of smaller states.
Now, all of his political skills will be on trial at the upcoming ‘mini-general elections’ in the state to around 230 civic bodies, including mega-corporations like Brihanmumbai, Thane, vi Mumbai, Pune, shik, gpur and others, between November 27, 2016 and January 8, 2017.
This time, the BJP has played safe and lassoed in the unpredictable Shiv Se with an alliance for the civic polls — unlike the 2014 assembly elections which the two parties fought independently. Performance-wise in the past two years, most consider it a mixed bag of goodies, with high marks on some issues like water conservation efforts coupled with a benevolent monsoon.
This was offset by low scores on the agrarian crisis punctuated by farmland suicides and, recently, the spectre of malnutrition plaguing some backward regions, triggering processions by different groups, which adversely hit the government’s image. (IANS)