In 2014, before the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha elections, Mumbai Voices, an NGO, conducted a study on what were the governance issues that most animated the voting public, and which party’s manifesto specifically addressed them.
The study established these major areas – education, public health, infrastructure and crime, and found that the Congress and BJP manifestos had more specific solutions to these issues. The other parties had only vague words for budgets, deadlines and way forward.
The elections were fought from the NDA’s side on prime minister Modi’s phenomenal popularity, and the belief that he, or his chosen person to lead the state, would keep the promises made to the electorate. Soon enough, the NDA won and the young fresh-faced politician from Vidarbha, Devendra Fadnavis, was hand-picked to lead Maharashtra and manage the prickly NDA partner, the Shiv Sena.
It’s 2019 now, and the Dev Fadnavis-led NDA government is up for re-election. The popular, affable Mr. Fadnavis is credited with being an unstoppable election machine. He is equally relentless in chasing investment for his state. “In the past five years, the Indian economy has expanded at an average annual rate of 7.5%, while Maharashtra’s has grown at 7.6%” said a recent Times of India article. Maharashtra ranked fifth on a 2018 index measuring states’ investment potential, according to the NCAER, and had a per capita income of ₹191,827 in 2018-19, which is 51% higher than the national average. The state is at 14% of India’s GDP, and its 89.6 million voters have to now decide if the past five years have been worth a re-election.
His public meetings invite record crowds, and the election is his to lose, since Fadnavis seems to have fulfilled most of his manifesto promises with gusto.
Maharashtra has allocated 18.9% of its expenditure on education in 2019-20. This is higher than the average expenditure allocated to education by other states. Maharashtra has allocated 4.2% of its expenditure on health, 6.4% of its expenditure on rural development, and 4.6% of its total expenditure on police. 5% of its total expenditure is for the welfare of SC, ST and OBC.
Fadnavis fought for, and successfully won, a 16% SEBC quota and 10% EWS quota and defused the thick tension with the Maratha community demanding reservation in education and jobs.
Aside of the 3160 UG seats and 2030 PG seats in the state, he lobbied for 813 additional PG seats and 1740 additional UG seats for the state, to ensure that the number of seats left in the open category should be almost the same as before.
Fadnavis had aimed to establish 25 to 30 universities in different parts of Maharashtra, streamline administration, exams, research & development. The Maharashtra Assembly house passed the Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016, which proposed wide ranging administrative and student body reforms. His team pushed for a private sports university and a full-fledged university of arts and culture, all of which are in various stages of planning and execution. Over 35,000 schools in villages have been digitised, 50,000 skilled teachers have been trained in English.
The Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana, allows families with a joint income of less than Rs 1 lakh per annum to avail of health insurance of up to Rs 1.5 lakh annually. When surprise raids on empanelled hospitals saw that poor beneficiaries were being asked to pay out of pocket expenses, show cause notices were issued. These hospitals can be fined penalties twice the amount overcharged. Beneficiaries of the insurance scheme now receive a clip of the CM explaining the scheme to them so they can’t be cheated by an empanelled hospital.
Fadnavis also established the country’s first oral health policy, Swashtha Mukh Abhiyan, which made it mandatory for all government and private dental hospitals and clinics to screen poor patients for oral cancer for free. He and his team have also flagged off several vaccine drives for measles and rubella, covering 10 lakh school kids every day. These schemes, combined with the Centre’s, fulfill a large chunk of his manifesto promises to make Healthcare accessible to all.
He has also unveiled the nation’s “first, integrated and technology-driven healthcare programme ‘Atal Arogya Vahini – Adiwasi Jeevanadayani’ for students in 301 state-run ashram schools and Eklavya model residence schools in 14 remote towns across Maharashtra”, which was the cornerstone of his manifesto promises on Healthcare.
Fadnavis announced his vision of building the infrastructure for a ‘Drought and Flood Free Maharashtra’ during his ‘Mahajanadesh Yatra’ with the help of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. He said he was going to create flood-proof infrastructure to safeguard basic public services, and divert excess water to drought stricken areas.
In October 2015, the BJP-led government in Maharashtra started implementation of the Maharashtra Right to Service Act, and put down all of it under their portal ‘Aaple Sarkar’. This best in class portal with its various dashboards, is a citizen’s biggest empowerment tool. As of 4th October 2019, over 7.5 crore applications have been processed (about 60,000 per day), with 55% on time delivery; 38 state government departments are online, though the Revenue department gets a disproportionate share of attention,
Being a canny politician, Fadnavis knows the one area where the government has not lived up to its manifesto promise – a pot-hole free Mumbai in five years. He has now made it clear that, as he said in his BMC manifesto, citizens would not be charged road tax till Mumbai’s roads are made pot-hole free, and no sewage tax for areas which do not have appropriate sewage discharge.
Mr. Fadnavis’s manifesto had promised to bring civic contractors, officials and elected representatives under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). Welcome to the MCOCA – Meter!
Nagpur held the dubious distinction of being the “crime capital” of Maharashtra in 2014 when Dev Fadnavis took charge. In Q3 2019, police figures indicate that total offences are down by 318 versus last year and average registered monthly crimes are down by 42. The detection rate has gone up by almost 15 %.
This is thanks to the synergy of energetic political will, solid backing given to the police force, as well as tremendous advances made in the way crimes are tracked, tackled and prevented. Gang wars were cracked down on, and goons jailed, under the MCOCA, which led to the state-wide phenomenon called MCOCA-Metre which tracks criminals suffering state hospitality. While a digital database of criminals, called Crime and criminal tracking network and system (CCTNS), and online complaint system, and a specialised ‘Bharosa cell’ for women have all made tracking and tackling crime easier, transparent processes like e-challans for traffic and expedited passport verification etc have cracked down on corruption. CCTV cameras under the Safe and Smart City Project, which has a unified command and control centre, as well as a swiftly rising conviction rate, have both empowered law enforcement.
In America, the perennial question before voters is – will you have beer with this candidate. That is, do they view the candidate as likeable, trustworthy, and approachable as a leader. Indians don’t wish to have tea with their leader, or biscuits for that matter. But they do look on the paternal state for that one glimpse of humanity and leadership. Dr. Singh couldn’t provide it during Nirbhaya, nor could Mr. Gandhi during the floods this and last year.
Fadnavis was confronted with a tough call on the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in Maharashtra’s Kopardi village in 2016. It had so angered the predominant Maratha community that they took out more than 50 massive, silent marches across the state, called Maratha Kranti Morchas.
Fadnavis, who has a daughter himself, had appointed the most skillful special public prosecutor he could, Ujjwal Nikam, to reassure the victim’s family. Nikam’s mandate was to complete the trial in record time, get sentences for the rapist and his Co-conspirators, and to go for the death penalty. It was awarded to Jitendra Shinde, Nitin Bhailume and Santosh Bhaval in 2017.
Fadnavis wanted to warn “all those elements in the society who think up such heinous crimes against women”, and when he faced the press to give his statement, he had shown that humanity combined with power works for justice and upliftment.