So here is the paradox of our times. Read the business pages, and there is a fair chance that you will get the impression of a Narendra Modi government on the ropes and an economy in serious trouble. Then, read the political pages and find that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut is marching from one electoral success to another.
A curious election littered with many firsts is taking place in Maharashtra. A 49 year old Brahmin from Nagpur appears set to be re-elected for a second five year term in a Maratha-dominated polity. A 29 year old member of the Thackeray family is actually contesting an election. The BJP has pushed the original sons of the soil regional force, Shiv Sena to a secondary position in its long-standing alliance. The ageing Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra's tallest leader over nearly half a century, is fighting hard to keep his family, leave aside his party, together.
In Maharashtra, and arguably across the country, the state is increasingly identified with real estate. Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan tells a story of how passing any legislation to regulate land transactions is an onerous task. Once, Chavan attempted to change land rules with respect to multi-storey parking and higher floor space index (FSI) in Mumbai with the aim of ushering in greater transparency. There was total silence in the Cabinet meeting when the proposal was mooted. “Some of my Cabinet colleagues looked at me as if I was committing a sin,” recalls Chavan.
A fortnight ago, in this very column, I wrote an open letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra. In the past, I have written open letters to Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Raj Thackeray and many others: None of them have chosen to reply. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when Devendra Fadnavis took the trouble of replying in some detail to the questions raised over governance issues.
Firstly, I wish to thank you for replying to my open letter and creating space for a public debate. This is a sign of a truly healthy democracy and is rare for a politician in this day and age. I truly appreciate that a big politician chooses to reply to a humble columnist: doesn't happen too often in an age where the media is a soft target. However, while I do not wish this to become a tu to main main, I must reserve the right to reply.