Mumbai: Devendra Fadnavis has already had one of the longest single terms as Maharashtra chief minister as he completes four years in office—sort of a surprise given the relative political stability in the state. If he completes his term till October 2019, he will become only the second chief minister to do so.
In an interview, 48-year-old Fadnavis listed out his government’s achievements, as against the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) regime, spoke at length about the BJP’s uneasy alliance with the Shiv Sena, the gravity of the “drought-like situation" in nearly half of Maharashtra, and responded to the criticism by the opposition parties of his government’s flagship “Jalyukta Shivar" (farms with plentiful water), a programme for small-scale water conservation and rainwater harvesting.
The chief minister also admitted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sometimes put on the defensive in the battle of narratives as it was in government and “it could not speak lies like Congress president Rahul Gandhi routinely does".
Fadnavis said the BJP-led government in Maharashtra has achieved much more in just four years than what the Congress-NCP did in their 15 years. “From Mumbai infrastructure projects to raising farm productivity by making substantial investments in the farm sector to providing direct assistance to farmers and the deployment of debt to creation of assets, we have done better on every front."
On the BJP’s frosty relationship with the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis sounded optimistic about a pre-poll alliance working out for both Lok Sabha and assembly elections. The chief minister ruled out simultaneous elections in Maharashtra. He said the Shiv Sena needed to understand that fighting against each other would lead to division of “Hindutva votes". “When the so-called secular parties are coming together, we need to make sure that the Hindutva votes are not split."
Fadnavis compared the “drought-like situation" across 180 tehsils to the drought of 2014-15, adding that in terms of water scarcity it could get even worse in some areas. But he insisted that the government was better prepared to handle the situation and relief measures were already being implemented.
He justified the state government’s crackdown on “Urban Naxals", saying that the government has “strong evidence" against those arrested. Fadnavis also backed the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad’s swoop on Sanatan Sanstha members and ruled out any connection between the action against the Sanstha and the Bhima Koregaon arrests.
Conceding that the four-and-a-half years of the Modi-led BJP rule in India has witnessed a battle of narratives, Fadnavis said the government was naturally on the defensive because it was in power. But he exuded confidence that the BJP still controlled the “development narrative" and that Modi will be back as prime minister in 2019.