By Vijay Darda | 03-11-2014
Look at it from any standpoint you may like, the fact that the 44-year- old Devendra Gangadharrao Fadnavis has taken office as the 27th chief minister of Maharashtra is a welcome new beginning. There are several well-known elements of his persona that have the ingredients to make a fresh start as compared to the rusty politics that had come to be entrenched in the State over the last 15 years, if not for any other reason but sheer inertia. All the bouquets and roses that have been showered on him by everyone — right from the power elite to corporate honchos, glittering celebrities and the hoi polloi — stand testimony to this sentiment. The mega swearing-in event at the Wankhede Stadium for which even a sulking Uddhav Thackeray could not turn down a persuasive politically loaded invite, says it all.
For starters, he belongs to the I-phone, I-pad generation that is clued in to latest developments. Then he has been a public representative for a decade and half, and has been face-to-face with the problems of the people. Be it load-shedding or farmers suicides, he is aware of everything first hand. So, the babus, the permanent bane of our democracy, may tutor him about the solutions, they cannot colour his views about the problems. This is a boon. For a grass-root understanding of the problems, is the first step for a chief minister to provide the innovative space for the people to solve their problems. Devendra has this understanding.
Then there is his political and family background. Let us make no mistake, he is the hand-picked candidate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In this age and time, this makes him the strongest politico in the State, without ifs and buts. Couple this with the endorsement and blessings he has from the BJP’s ideological mentor the RSS, and you can be sure that Devendra could not have asked for more. There are no questions about his personal integrity given that he is the son of Gangadharrao, the selfless worker who slogged in public service even when there were no signs of any rewards. Besides, Devendra has been a tough campaigner for probity in public life, given his dogged efforts to fight corruption in high places.
Of course, there is the slight problem that the party does not have a majority of its own in the 288-member State assembly. But that is primarily a managerial issue. All chief ministers have lived with it ( some even enjoying it) and frankly should not hamper the conceptual search of the right prescription for the ills of the State and the administration of the right remedies. Indeed, that should provide the most effective answer to the problems created by the numbers game. The decisions should be such that it is difficult for anyone to oppose the government. It is not for nothing that that the statement — “There are only three persons who rule the country– the PM, the CM and the DM” — has gained currency and validity in our politico-administrative folklore. Now, we do not have any evidence of his governance abilities, and at this stage we can only hope and wish that for the sake of people of Maharashtra, Devendra stands up to this test.
Now, comes the matter that is dearest to our hearts and as we have known in the past engages his attention and drives his sentiments. The perennial Vidarbha question in all its dimensions. Devendra hails from Vidarbha (the Fadnavis family belongs to Chandrapur) and is a true Nagpurian in every sense of the word. So, even as we all do realise that he is the chief minister of the entire state of Maharashtra, and cannot be expected to act as only the chief minister of Vidarbha but, there are some legitimate expectations. Foremost being that he reverts the anti-Vidarbha tilt in the administration and instead brings in an element of positive discrimination in favour of this neglected region. Such a positive tilt would be more of a redemption of a long unfulfilled and forgotten promise made at the time of the formation of the State and less of a favour or an act of partiality. The people of Vidarbha have whole-heartedly backed the BJP in these elections (the party got 42 out of the 62 seats) banking on the promise that the party is in favour of smaller states and is committed to the cause of separate statehood.
While statehood awaits other political considerations and cannot come in a haste, the expectation that all the other correctives shall be put in place is on balance fully legitimate. This is celebration time for Vidarbha as one of the sons of its soil has risen to the post of the chief minister. However, without naming names one most add a caveat. Political leaders from Vidarbha have always forgotten the promises they make to the people during election time. They have only remembered the “Vidarbha cause” when out of power. We can only hope that Devendra does not belong to that class. Let us hope that he emulates the western Maharashtra politicians in this respect and repays his debt to Vidarbha.
There is an added reason to pin this hope on Devendra. His better half Amruta’s facebook post on the day he was sworn-in as the chief minister says it all. She wrote: “Congratulations Devendra for being the second youngest CM. The real test begins now. Your service to the state begins from Day 1. Best luck.” Now, unlike her hubby from the political world, that thrives on networking, linkages, intrigue and backstage manipulations, she is a banking sector professional with a proven track record, and her words “the real test begins now” have an added significance. So, we can hope that more than anything else, Devendra knows that he has to pass the Amruta test. It is also heartening to note that Mrs Chief Minister is not enamoured of the glory that comes with the highest political office in the state and wishes to continue as the banker, she is.