On Thursday, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray will be sworn in as chief minister of Maharashtra at Mumbai's Shivaji Park.
Uddhav, who will become the first member of the Thackeray clan to hold this political office, would be mindful of the bevy of challenges facing the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government.
After all, Uddhav emerged victorious — with a little help from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi — after a month of high political drama that saw his party fall out with the BJP, begin talks with the Congress and NCP to form a coalition government, witnessed his former ally steal a march and form a government with support from NCP leader Ajit Pawar only to fall three days later and was finally picked as chief minister.
Uddhav, who will be the third Sena leader to occupy the post of chief minister — after Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane — has admitted that he "never dreamed of leading the state". From dealing with farm distress and unemployment to keeping the coalition government united, here are some of the challenges facing Uddhav:
Keeping alliance united
The Congress and Shiv Sena are far from natural allies. The only reason for them to come together is keeping the BJP out of power. The natural tension between the Congress' secular outlook and commitment to Nehruvian ideals — at least in theory — and the Shiv Sena's Marathi versus non-Marathi binary will come to the fore sooner rather than later.
As Swapan Dasgupta, writing in The Telegraph, in a column entitled "The Maharashtra story may not be over yet", pointed out: "The contradictions that exist between the ‘secular’ Congress and NCP on the one hand and the ‘Hindutvavadi’ Shiv Sena on the other cannot be brushed under the carpet for too long. At the constituency level these parties have fought each other bitterly and they have different support bases."
"...the Shiv Sena will have to explain its latest realignment to its voters. In particular, it will have to clarify — not least to the Congress and NCP — whether or not its position on Hindutva has been affected by the alliance with the Congress and NCP....What will warrant closer scrutiny is any move by the party to make a shift from being a party upholding the Shivaji and Maratha manoos inheritance of Bal Thackeray to becoming a more ‘normal’ regional party. Ideological shifts have to be deftly managed and Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership skills will be tested in the coming days," Dasgupta wrote.
Already, Fadnavis has accused the Sena of "being desperate for the chief minister's post and surrendering its Hindutva at the feet of Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi only to keep the BJP out of power". The BJP leader also has questioned the sustainability of the government which the three parties with varying ideologies are planning to form. "The Sena-NCP-Congress government would be like an auto rickshaw with its three wheels running in different directions," he said, predicting that it would topple.
Uddhav, thanking Sonia after Fadnavis' resigation, has vowed to make Maharashtra into the state envisioned by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He defiantly added that he was ready to answer all the questions raised by Fadnavis and that he was not scared of anything. "Lies are not part of Hindutva," he'd said.
Ahead of the swearing-in of the Uddhav Thackeray-led government on Thursday, the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance on Thursday said the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government would waive farmers' loans and ensure 80 percent quota in jobs to local/domicile youth. NCP leaders Jayant Patil and Nawab Malik and Sena leader Eknath Shinde announced the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) at a media briefing. The programme consists of complete loan waiver to farmers as well as one rupee clinics across the state, which will provide basic screening of people across the state, they said. Sena's most discussed promise during the Assembly poll campaign of offering a full meal at Rs 10 also figures in the CMP.
It might be tough for Uddhav, who does not have previous experience of serving in government, to fulfill these promises. As this Firstpost piece pointed out, while Devendra Fadnavis, the outgoing chief minister, is handing over a state which is in relatively good economic condition to Uddhav, several difficulties abound. "...The biggest [challenge] will be addressing the crisis that has gripped Maharashtra’s rural economy. Repeating unseasonal rains and drought conditions in many parts of the state have impacted the income patterns of its farmers," the piece pointed out.
"In his three-day stint as chief minister in the second term, Fadnavis sanctioned over Rs 5,000 crore from the relief fund to aid the farmers but the alliance government will have to think through a longer roadmap to revive the state’s crisis-ridden agriculture sector. Merely relying on farm loan waivers won’t be enough. The state needs to revamp its agriculture sector policies to ensure the farmer gets the right price for his produce and making the right technology accessible to overcome seasonal adversities."
As per a report in The Times of India, according to National Stastistical Office data provided by Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar in the Rajya Sabha, Maharashtra is among the states which has seen a high rise in the rate of unemployment over the past year. This Maharashtra Today piece concurs, describing the job situation as "alarming". "The new government will have to boost its industrial policies targeting private sector entrepreneurs to accommodate skilled workers. On the other hand, there will be huge pressure on the Sena-led government for job-reservations from the local job aspirants. Between quota politics and state’s economic development, the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance will have a tightrope walk," the piece argued.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2019 18:52:18 IST