Govern or go
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The Congress-NCP war mustn't be allowed to hold up governance in Maharashtra
The resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has plunged the Maharashtra government into uncertainty. It is, at one level, the outcome of growing friction between the NCP leadership and the Congress chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan. At another level, it is Ajit Pawar's breaking free of the long shadow cast by his uncle, Sharad Pawar — by taking this unilateral decision and demonstrating the fealty of NCP MLAs, he has signalled his autonomy and authority. It is also a test for Prithviraj Chavan, whose determination to prove corruption in the irrigation sector has been taken by Ajit Pawar as a personal affront, and who, to complicate matters further, is unloved within the Maharashtra Congress.
The Congress high command is used to placing and replacing chief ministers in the state — Chavan is the fourth in nine years. These leaders are kept wondering about their own futures, unable to take the crucial, creative decisions that Maharashtra and the city of Mumbai need. The party is at war within, and timid without, deferring all larger questions to the central leadership. Buffeted by scandal after scandal, the Congress had sent Chavan in November 2010, and both his promise and his weakness lay in the fact that he was seen as an outsider in Maharashtra's politics-as-usual. Two years on, however, what has he achieved? To placate powerful leaders from the state after parachuting Chavan to the CM's office, the Congress made room for them at the Centre, but took no further initiative for the state. Chavan was left to his fate, to sink or swim by his own political acumen. He may have gone after the big patronage hubs in the cooperative sector, real estate etc, and created political turbulence with his allies and party members, but he has also dragged his feet on the issues that matter to citizens — crises in employment and infrastructure, the power deficit, a rent-seeking municipal apparatus. Once again, what matters to Maharashtra has been sidelined by what matters to its politicians.
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