Is being ‘clean’ good enough? Or does good leadership takes much more than that? A year on, the jury is still out on Prithviraj Chavan.
The suave and sophisticated US-educated engineer, a natural in the Delhi’s power circles, was paradropped to the leadership role in the state after former chief minister Ashok Chavan got inextricably caught in the Adarsh housing society scandal. He did not have a strong home base, neither was he too familiar with the goings on within the faction-ridden state Congress.
But he was clean and untouched by controversies. That is what the embattled Congress, caught in a series of scandals, needed most at the time. It was difficult to find someone fitting the bill in Maharashtra. So Prithviraj, part of the inner circle of the Congress high command and a favourite of both party chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it had to be.
His task was cut out. He had to give the Congress-led Democratic Front in the state a facelift and keep the Congress-NCP coalition free of troubles. In addition, he had to provide that growth momentum to the state which was fast lagging behind neighbouring Gujarat in growth by bringing in efficiency in administration and other areas of governance.
Prithviraj has not delivered as expected but has managed to keep himself clean. There’s has been a lull in scandals and controversies but there’s no quick decision-making. There’s still no policy road map to take the state ahead. That’s clearly not what Maharashtra needs.
Opposition Shiv Sena calls him an indecisive leader. He is accused of sitting on more than 12,000 files, many of them dealing with important issues such as mining leases and the cluster development proposals. Also, he is not given to taking a decision, a complaint made by some NCP ministers too. He is given too much to thoroughness which causes delays, say people close to him. But that is not what the state needs.
But his track record is not all that bleak either. It was because of his efforts that the central government cleared the 9,900-MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in Ratnagiri district and the airport project at Navi Mumbai. He has hiked the floor space index in Mumbai from 1 to 1.33, paving the way for more housing stock in the city. However, he needs to do more, much more.
He needs to bring massive investment to the state, which is fast losing its status as one of the most industrialised state in the country. There are indications that foreign investment is taking flight to Gujarat because of the conducive industrial climate there. There’s no solution to the energy crisis in the state yet. He has to bolster the power sector, the key driver of growth.
On the political front, his record is not all that inspiring. Factional fight within the Congress is silent for now but ally NCP is getting restless. Brushes between the chief minister and the party have not been infrequent. Chavan had earlier spoken about being unhappy about key portfolios like home, finance and power being with the NCP. Only recently, he said coalition constituents behave as if they own the ministries they hold.
“In Delhi, some in the coalition behave as if they are owners of the departments. Here also, the situation is somewhat similar,” he said. He was possibly hitting out at deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Ajit, who virtually heads the party in the state now, has not been to appreciative of Chavan either. Both the leaders have been speaking about the compulsions of coalition politics.
Chavan at times gives the impression that he is not cut out for state politics. He has to change that impression fast. The state needs a leader in the Narendra Modi mould. The soft-spoken and elegant chief minister need not match the personality of Modi but he can surely be as firm and decisive like him.