Devendra Fadnavis: "I will drastically reduce farmer suicides in 2 years"
Eight months after assuming office, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, 44, is busy juggling politics and governance. From the ban on beef to unseasonal rain and farmer suicides, he's had to deal with a few sticky issues.
Making things more difficult is the BJP's rather temperamental coalition partner, the Shiv Sena.
In an interview with senior journalist Nikhil Wagle, he speaks about his vision for 'Make in Maharashtra' and how 'communal statements hurt RSS ideology'. Excerpts:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a point to take Fadnavis on a few trips abroad, to China, Germany and Israel. He was handpicked by Modi to attend the World Economic Forum summit in Davos. Here's what the chief minister had to say about being Modi's flying friend.
Like the Modi government at the Centre where the PMO plays a key role, Fadnavis has also centralised power with the Chief Minister's Office (CMO). Fadnavis' ministers can, on occasion, be overheard complaining about being sidetracked. Fadnavis addresses these claims and discusses how he runs his government.
Farmers have drawn the short straw this year with unseasonal rain and hail storms causing widespread damage to crops. In Maharashtra, farmer suicide figures have been shooting through the roof with as many as 1,088 in 2015 already. Fadnavis spells out a few 'concrete steps' his government is taking to combat farm distress.
Fadnavis belongs to the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, one of the worst drought-affected areas in the state. As an Opposition leader, he was at the forefront of protests against the Congress-NCP government on the same issue. What has he done so far as CM?
Irrigation scam and Ajit Pawar
The Maharashtra irrigation scam, which involved the misappropriation of funds meant for various projects, has allegedly cost the exchequer around Rs 70,000 crore over 10 years. Former ministers, including ex-deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP, are allegedly involved in this massive laundering of public funds.
Fadnavis speaks about the delay in the probe and the allegation that the BJP is going soft on the NCP because of Sharad Pawar's personal relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Law and order
In February 2015, social activist Govind Pansare was killed just months after the BJP-NCP government came to power. When he was in the Opposition, Fadnavis had heavily criticised the government for not being able to nab the murderer of activist Narendra Dabholkar.
That investigation has now been handed over to the CBI. Six months after Pansare's death, Maharashtra Police is still at a loss. Shouldn't that investigation also be moved to the CBI? Fadnavis responds.
In March, Maharashtra imposed a ban on cow slaughter and the sale of beef. Now, anyone found to be selling beef or in possession of it can be jailed for 5 years and fined Rs 10,000. Nearly 5 lakh people from the Qureshi community are expected to lose their livelihood. When the President gave his assent, Fadnavis had tweeted, "Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now."
Jaitapur and managing Shiv Sena
The BJP has had major differences with its coalition partner Shiv Sena on the Jaitapur nuclear plant. The Sena called the nuclear power project in the coastal Ratnagiri district 'a monster'. Fadnavis replied by saying that the project has reached a stage from where there is no going back. But how will he manage the Sena?
Development vs Hindutva
Since the BJP came to power in 2014 at the Centre, Sangh Parivar MPs like Yogi Adityanath and Giriraj Kishore have made several communal statements. However, BJP or Sangh affiliates have largely stayed away from any divisive rhetoric in Maharashtra. Is it because Fadnavis' focus is on development?
Make in Maharashtra
Fadvanis made a strong pitch for the 'Make in Maharashtra' initiative - a programme which looks like an offshoot of Modi's 'Make in India'. Towards that goal, he says that Taiwan-based Foxconn, which manufactures Apple products, has already shown interest in setting up an iPad and iPhone manufacturing facility in the state.
Gujarat vs Maharashtra
The two states have always been competitive, but Opposition parties and the Shiv Sena claim that many central government offices and industries are shifting to Gujarat. Can Fadnavis' Maharashtra compete with Modi's Gujarat?