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BJP wins Maha polls; time to face the challenges

By Sanjay Jog
October 20, 2014 13:54 IST
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New Maharashtra government will have to mobilise money to complete pending irrigation, infra projects

The Bharatiya Janata Party emerged the single largest party in the Maharashtra elections, while its former ally Shiv Sena, which fought independently and targeted the former for ending the 25-year-old alliance, was way behind with 62 seats.

The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, which also contested separately, were vying with each other for third and fourth slots.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which had won 13 seats in 2009, got only one seat this time.

State BJP President Devendra Fadnavis, frontrunner for the chief minister's post, extended a hand of friendship by saying the Sena was not BJP's enemy.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue M G Vaidya in Nagpur announced that in the larger interest of the state, the BJP and Sena should come together to form the government, even as party president Amit Shah flatly refused to countenance any conditions from the Sena and said the BJP would press ahead anyway.

Similarly, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who had declared he was ready to become chief minister, said the poll results proved there was no Modi wave. He added "all options are open to me". However, that Sena's options were limited was clear from the immediate and unconditional support to the BJP offered by its adversary, the NCP, in a bid to forestall the Sena.

State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre resigned, owning moral responsibility for the defeat. Party's former ministers Narayan Rane, Harshvardhan Patil and Sanjay Deotale, who had shifted to the BJP, were defeated.

Interestingly, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which focused on about 20 assembly seats, has gained in parts of Marathwada.

Whatever the complexion of the government, it is clear that it will face a big challenge. Increased spending on drought relief and subsidies towards power rate rebate has made the state deficit in revenue.

The new government will have to mobilise Rs 85,000 crore to complete pending irrigation projects, Rs 1 lakh crore for various infrastructure development projects and increase allocation in social sectors, including education and public health.

The BJP had promised to abolish the local body tax, introduced in phases since 2010 and opposed by traders. There is no option but to either return to the controversial octroi regime or an alternative levy that will not hurt the already cash-strapped civic bodies.

Though Maharashtra continues to attract 18 per cent of annual investments it still faces stiff competition from other states. It will have to address the conversion of Special Economic Zone into integrated industrial zones, as announced by the earlier government. Despite Maharashtra getting the approval for more than 150 SEZs, the implementation was disappointing due to tax issues and policy uncertainty. The new government will have to either withdraw the previous government's decision in this regard or bring new proposals to expedite industrial development. The revival of 240 industrial estates managed by the state-run Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation is also an issue.

The BJP had blamed the Congress-NCP government for poor agriculture growth. It will have to set it right. Power shortages are still a problem. Industrial supply rates need to come down, which might burden finances.

PROBABLE CMs

DEVENDRA FADNAVIS

The Maharashtra BJP President, a Brahmin from Nagpur, is a strong contender for the chief minister’s post. An active RSS swayamsevak, Fadnavis was mayor of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation before he became a legislator. Known for his oratory skills, he played a major role in exposing many scams that took place during the Congress-NCP government.

EKNATH KHADSE

Leader of Opposition in the 12th state assembly, hails from the backward Leva Patil community. A grassroots leader, Khadse worked hard to spread the party’s base in north Maharashtra. If selected, Khadse will become the first chief minister from north Maharashtra. He had worked as the minister for finance and irrigation during the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance rule during 1995 and 1999.

VINOD TAWDE

Leader of the opposition in the state council, Tawde belongs to the influential Maratha community. Before joining the BJP, he was an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He was never shy of expressing his ambition to become the chief minister. He comes from the Konkan region. Tawde has been quite active in the development of the region.

PANKAJA MUNDE- PALVE

Daughter of the late Gopinth Munde, Pankaja stunned BJP leaders by announcing she was the only mass leader qualified to take up the chief minister’s job. Pankaja was elected for the second time from Parali in Beed district, which was her father’s bastion. Pankaja comes from the Vanjari community and she was leading the party’s youth wing.

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Sanjay Jog
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