Prithviraj Chavan completes two years in office as Maharashtra chief minister on Sunday when the state has slipped to sixth position after Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat in attracting foreign direct investments (FDI). Besides, ambitious projects including the Navi Mumbai international airport, 9,900 Mw Jaitapur nuclear power project and a slew of Mumbai’s infrastructure upgrade projects are running behind the schedule. His government, despite repeated announcements, was not able to release new industrial policy to keep pace with the competition.
However, to Chavan’s credit, he succeeded in reigning in co-partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Unlike his predecessors Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde, Chavan, who is cashing in on his Mr Clean image, was able to put NCP on a defensive. Curiously, series of expose on multi-crore scams and irregularities in the ministries held by NCP especially in irrigation, Maharashtra Sadan reconstruction, toll collection and tribal development came quite Chavan’s handy to politically outsmart NCP. This is despite Congress party’s miserable performance under Chavan’s leadership in the elections held during this year to civic and local bodies where NCP’s performance gave Congress a run.
At times, Chavan's functioning as the Congress chief minister instead of coalition government's chief annoyed NCP. Moreover, his alleged understanding with the opposition Shiv Sena made NCP to remind Chavan that the state government was in place since 1999 on NCP's support.
Arvind Pradhan, director general, Indian Merchants’ Chamber says Maharashtra is losing edge in the manufacturing sector to states like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. “The state has failed to capitalise on the growth opportunities in the chemical and automobile sector. For example, in the automobile sector, during the last decade, Maharashtra grew at a lower rate in comparison to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. And now, Maharashtra is losing to Gujarat as well. When Tata Motors moved out of Singur in West Bengal it chose Gujarat over Maharashtra. For its second plant, Ford Motor, which is already present in Tamil Nadu, has signed a deal of special incentives with Gujarat instead of going ahead with Maharashtra, according to some reports. Even when Peugeot the French automobile major considered setting up a plant in India, it shortlisted Tamil Nadu. Maharashtra was not even a distant contender. Finally, it went along with Gujarat. Thus, while investment is coming to India, Maharashtra, is losing out to its more pro-active and vibrant counterparts.”
Curiously, union agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar recently expressed his displeasure over move by auto companies to move out of Maharashtra citing reversal of certain policy decisions. The obvious target was Chavan for slow pace of decision making.
Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar, who recently resigned as deputy chief minister after allegations with regard to his involvement of scam in the 37 irrigation projects from the under developed Vidarbha region, has been quite vocal against Chavan’s style of functioning. Ajit Pawar claims that files need to be cleared expeditiously instead of being kept for scrutiny. However, Chavan rebuts allegations made by Pawar and industry personnel with regard to pending files and policy paralysis saying that his objective has been clearing those files pertaining to public interest on a priority basis and not those serving private interests.
V N Dhoot, chairman, Videocon Industries, says the time has come for Chavan led government to see the dispersal of industrial development other than Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad. “Maharashtra continues to shine. However, while attracting investments and industries the state government should pay enough attention on proper infrastructure develop,ment,” he notes. According to Dhoot, the state government cannot neglect Mumbai’s infrastructure which is decaying day by day as it has to expedite its upgrade.
Ironically, despite five months after a major fire broke in the state secretariat, Chavan led government was not able to award contract for reconstruction.
Chavan was the architect of release of new Development Control Rules and keeping the TDR (transfer of development rights) under check. As expected the realty sector opposed it and went on to argue that it would further put pressure on creating more housing stock in the city in particular.