After Narendra Modi 2.0, Devendra Fadnavis 2.0 in the Maharashtra State?

Maharashtra's economy, which is around $400 billion today, needs to change its development priorities if it is to reach $1 trillion by 2025.

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Devendra Fadnavis will be the second Chief Minister to complete his five-year term in the nearly 60-year history of Maharashtra. After Vasantrao Naik, the Chief Minister has not been able to retain his seat for five consecutive years. Fadnavis, the second youngest Chief Minister of the state after Sharad Pawar, got the post by accident, but in just five years, he has emerged as the most popular BJP leader in the state. So after Modi 2.0 in Delhi, will Fadnavis 2.0 come to the state? This will determine the next few months.

Following the Assembly elections, the BJP's strength in the Gram Panchayat, Municipal Corporation and Zilla Parishad elections under the leadership of Fadnavis has steadily increased. After addressing the highest number of 87 rallies in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Fadnavis also campaigned in Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. With the BJP winning 23 out of 25 seats in the state, it is certain that the forthcoming Assembly elections will be fought under the leadership of Fadnavis.

In the last five years, farmers and Marathas have taken to the streets due to falling prices and droughts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity as well as Devendra Fadnavis's political ingenuity and tireless efforts are the reasons behind the BJP's success in spite of the ongoing turmoil.

Maharashtra has made a great contribution to the development of India. Although the state has always been at the forefront in terms of urbanization, industrialization, education and social reforms, the pulse of the economy has remained mainly in the urban belt of Mumbai-Pune, while the pulse of politics has remained in the rural areas. In the last two decades, on the one hand, there has been a massive increase in urbanization, while on the other hand, the rural economy, based on the agriculture and co-operative movement, has begun to crumble. But due to the rate of politics, a huge amount of money was being spent on keeping the system alive.

The government has not been able to make major changes in public transport and other infrastructure in
Mumbai and other cities. Due to rising land and house prices, rising wage rates and political policy paralysis, new industries were favoring Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Gurugram over Mumbai. With the exception of Pune, no other city in the state was in the competition. With the state's debt head at over ₹3 lakh crore, there were limits on new loans. Coalition-led politics complicated the decision-making process and paralyzed the state. Though leaders from all parties in Maharashtra have a vision for development and a huge scope of work, their work is limited due to the alliance-led politics at the Center and in the states. In this respect, Fadnavis was relatively lucky.

In his own words about the state's current state, Maharashtra's economy, which was around 400 billion in 2017-18, needs to change its development priorities if it is to reach ₹1 trillion or ₹1 trillion by 2025. Although 50% of the state is urbanized, about 45% of the people get employment from agriculture and allied sectors. The region accounts for only 11% of the state's gross domestic product. Despite the doubling of agricultural productivity, the share of the agricultural sector will be only 6% in 2025.

In 2017-18, the share of industrial sector in the economy will increase from 30% to 27% and the share of service sector will increase from the current 67% to 73%. The services sector will also be dominated by Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Big Data, Smart Mobility, Clean Energy and Digital Services. Start-up companies will drive this fourth industrial revolution. Of course, in order to make this dream a reality, major infrastructure improvements in major cities in the state, including Mumbai, need to be accelerated.

As far as Mumbai is concerned, even though the 21st century has dawned, no structural changes have been made in the transport system set up by the British. Although the Metro 1 project provided a faster alternative for east-west transport, it took only 7 years for the 11 km long route. Mumbai's transport system needed not only bandages but also surgery. The Devendra Fadnavis government focused its attention on the public transport system in the cities of the state. In the last one and a half years, more than 175 km long metro projects are being set up in the Mumbai metropolitan area. A lot of work is in progress and wherever you go in the city, you see the 'work in progress' boards of the metro project. Two of these projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Once all the projects are completed, for the first time, a viable alternative to the Mumbai suburban railway system will be created. Amendments have been made in the Central Act regarding CRZ, which is an impediment to the construction of 29 km long coastal road from Nariman Point to Kandivali. The government succeeded in reactivating the stalled Shivdi-Nhava Parbandar project. The project will be implemented with the help of Japan. Apart from this, important link roads like East-West Highway Connection and Virar-Alibag Corridor will make it easier to travel from anywhere in the Mumbai metropolitan area once the project is completed, which will have a major impact on the housing, employment and industry sectors in the metropolis.

The Chief Minister made a concerted effort to complete the Nagpur-Mumbai Samrudhi Highway as soon as possible. Land acquisition for the 701 km long highway, which cost about ₹55,000 crore, is almost complete. With the launch of this highway in 2021, it will be possible to cover the distance from Nagpur to Mumbai in just 8 hours. Due to this highway, along with industry in Marathwada and Vidarbha, tourism will also get a big boost.

The same thing applies with air transport. The project of the second international airport at Navi Mumbai is underway. The international airport near Purandar has received government approval and the runway of Chipi Airport in Sindhudurg has been completed. Airports at Nashik, Shirdi and Kolhapur are also operational. The closed airports in the state are being re-opened due to the central government's flight plan. They are benefiting the tourism and industry sectors.

In response to the changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, state-of-the-art township projects in a single complex of high-tech industries, eco-friendly housing, as well as quality education and recreational facilities are being set up in Navi Mumbai. While other states, including Gujarat, have taken the lead in such smart-city projects, their success has limitations. This is because it takes decades to build a city. Born in an age of globalization, this generation loves to live in the city center. As Mumbai is in Maharashtra, it is clear that such smart clusters around Mumbai will get priority.

The same applies to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. It is a sign of inferiority complex to think that bullet trains are being built so that jobs in Mumbai will go out. Ahmedabad is the first stop of the bullet train and if successful, it will connect all the major cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai. For this, it is okay to look at Metro 1. The industries of the future will be closer to the cities as they are different from the industries of the 20th century. Therefore, the biggest benefit of the bullet train will be to the housing and industry sector in the area up to Dahanu.

As the state's ability to borrow for ambitious infrastructure projects is limited, it is being experimented to raise loans in the name of well-functioning government institutions. If such projects are not set up as per the schedule, the cost may increase and they may become a burden in the future. With this in mind, administrative reforms were undertaken. The expansion of the Chief Minister's Office in the last five years, the war room set up in the Ministry to oversee these projects and the participation of vocationally educated and skilled youth through CM Fellowships will be a special achievement of the Fadnavis Government. In addition to infrastructure, special priority was given to cleanliness, which is important in terms of public health. Under Narendra Modi's ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Maharashtra became Hagandari free state in 2018.

Following in the footsteps of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister visited countries like the United States, Germany, China, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and Israel in an effort to attract local entrepreneurs. Steps were taken to break the red tape by making the decision making process more streamlined and transparent. As a result, engineering as well as high-end companies have come forward to invest in Maharashtra, despite not offering as many concessions as other states. As a result of these efforts, 30% of the FDI inflows into the country last year, or about. 13.5 billion, came from Maharashtra alone.

The Other Side

Going beyond the lingering side of development, the dark side is also worth noting. Rapid naturalization and even the competition in the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik belt has further upset the balance of the state's development. Completing unfinished work in the irrigation sector is like wrapping Maruti's tail with rags and it is not easy to complete.

Although the government has succeeded in providing public participation as well as corporate support to the Jalayukta Shivar Yojana, the state seems to have turned to tankers again in the drought-hit year. To find the answer, the government will have to take into account the changed pattern of water use and strictly regulate and institutionalize it.

Although this is the largest farmer loan waiver in history to date, we are still a long way from getting rid of debt permanently. It is not affordable to have a full time agriculture minister and agriculture secretary not available for a long time. It is also difficult to meet the challenge of repairing the broken structure of the co-operation or creating a new structure. Since the politics of rural Maharashtra is largely dependent on co-operation, reforms have to be carried out with a vengeance. We have seen huge fluctuations in the prices of important crops due to the global trade war and its impact on the energy sector. Despite the need for denomination, GST and Rera reforms, it hit the housing sector hard. The dream of many to secure a home or an investment in it will continue to be a dream come true.

The rising cost of quality education and healthcare is also a matter of concern. All of these topics are the subject of a separate article. But looking back at what has happened in the last five years, it is safe to say that Maharashtra's declining train is back on track. We are being treated unfairly or we are lagging behind compared to other states. By giving special priority to the infrastructure sector and speedy completion of projects, the general public is confident that Maharashtra will be able to maintain its leading position for many more years to come.

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