Challenges before Uddhav government

Will an inexperienced Uddhav Thackeray, who is taking the rein of the state on Thursday at Shivaji Park in Mumbai with the help of parties with opposite ideologies, be able to face several challenges before the state in coming days?
Thackeray, the new chief minister, emerged victorious in the ugly power play of Maharashtra, nearly a month after the election outcome, backed by the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance. Uddhav has no experience in governance and administration. He will be the first Thackeray to hold a constitutional position while his elder son Aaditya has become the first from the clan to contest and win an election.
The biggest challenge awaiting for Thackeray is the major economic challenge from day one. He has to address 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.
An unfriendly government at the Centre will bode ill when it comes to devolution of finances and aid, over and above its share. Already, the Shiv Sena has rolled out populist promises like a complete write-off of farm loans, a 30% cut in tariffs for domestic power consumers, a wholesome meal for as low as Rs 10, and health check-ups for just Re 1. These measures, if implemented, will drain the state exchequer, and leave little funds for development. On 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.
Secondly, the unemployment situation is 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 economic survey reminds the government of the need to encouraging job creators rather than job seekers.
Besides, old issues with potential for communal polarisation like the protests by Hindu militant organisations against the veneration of the tomb of Afzal Khan, who was killed by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, on the foothills of the Pratapgad fort, in an event that has gone down in the annals of history, may also be resurrected. Moreover, the new government is bound to take a stand on conferring “Bharat Ratna” to the freedom fighter and an icon of Maharashtra, Veer Savarkar. The Sena’s new alliance partners, particularly, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party are against for conferring “Bharat Ratna” to Savarkar while the BJP incorporated in its election manifesto to give “Bharat Ratna” to Savarkar. The Congress’s antipathy against Savarkar is well-known. The great freedom fighter was made an accused in Gandhi’s assassination and arrested under preventive detention even when there wasn’t any evidence against him.
He was acquitted by the court, as the allegations of his role were baseless. Not just that, Veer Savarkar’s house was attacked by a Congress mob after Gandhi’s assassination. In that attack, his younger brother Narayan Savarkar (another great freedom fighter) was lynched by the mob. If Sena prefers to keep mum on the issue, the BJP may counter it in coming days and expose the party, once a Hindu hardliner.
The Sena and Congress-NCP are also on different sides of the fence on topics, like controversial Hindutva leader Sambhajirao Bhide ‘Guruji’, who has been accused of involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, and demands for quotas for Muslims. These may emerge as potential flashpoints in their precarious relationship, if fringe Hindutva groups get into the act. The Shiv Sena’s turn to Hindutva had blunted this core agenda. But, the Congress, which has a bigger national footprint than the NCP, may find it tough to reconcile with this position.
Though being in government as the first among equals offers an opportunity to the Shiv Sena to overcome and deodorise its reputation, the challenges are many. The slowdown in the manufacturing sector, flight of capital to other states and the agriculture sector, which has a negative growth rate and massive distress, are chinks in the armour of its economy.
Put together, this means that the Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray, as also the other constituents of the ‘Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi’, may have to walk a tightrope as they negotiate these bends. The Sena is attuned to a rough-and-ready brand of politics, and the self-effacing Uddhav will have to gradually reconcile himself to such diplomacy.
However, there is a good news for the new government that the outgoing chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is handing over a relatively healthy state economy to Uddhav Thackeray in compare to other major states in the country. In terms of debt, fiscal deficit and overall GDP contribution to the national income, Maharashtra is a well-performing state compared with other major states.
The state has also a healthy distribution of resources as well. During 2018-19 revised estimates, of the total development expenditure on social services, share of general education is 41.0 percent, followed by welfare of scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, other backward classes and minorities with 12.0 percent, medical services and public health with share 10.5 percent whereas share of agriculture and allied activities is the highest (37.2 percent) in economic services.
Now it would be the task of the new chief minister to maintain it and fulfil the promises he has given the people of the state. Coming days would certainly be crucial for the inexperienced chief minister !