Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Dear Devendraji,
This letter should normally have been a private mail congratulating you on completing one year in office next month. However, recent events in Maharashtra necessitate introspection rather than any celebration, and a need to initiate a vigorous public debate.
The first time I saw you was in 2010 during a television debate on the Adarsh land scam. I was impressed with your debating skills and tough, uncompromising stand on corruption. Which is why when you became chief minister last year, I saw it as a positive sign. In a state whose political class has become identified with venal and unscrupulous politics, you seemed to hold out hope. A 44-year-old chief minister brimming with ideas and energy, your rise suggested a welcome generational change in state politics. Sadly, a year later, the enthusiasm with which one greeted your arrival is now being matched by growing cynicism.
Just take three recent decisions of your government. First, the ill-advised decision to ban meat in Mumbai for four days. Yes, similar attempts to ban the sale of meat during the Jain Paryushan festival have been made in the past by your predecessors but your government tried to widen its ambit to well beyond the Mumbai suburb of Mira-Bhayandar.
After public pressure, you were forced to reduce the ban to just two days but in the process exposed your government to entirely avoidable criticism.
First, a beef ban, now a ban on meat: Why confuse good governance with food governance? Only a small group of Brahmins in Maharashtra are pure vegetarian. As the backlash from your ally the Shiv Sena and the MNS confirmed, the vast majority of Maharashtrians are non-vegetarian. The decision, thus, was doomed from the start, and will only alienate the growing urban middle class that values individual freedoms.
I know you are a swayamsevak, proud of your roots in Nagpur and your family’s long-standing connection with the RSS. But the people of Maharashtra last year did not vote for the imposition of the cultural agenda of the RSS, including any forcible attempt to dictate what can be cooked in the kitchen in the name of Bharatiya sanskriti.
The second decision that has proved worrisome is the manner in which Mumbai’s police commissioner Rakesh Maria was suddenly transferred out less than a month before he was due a promotion. That the transfer was done while Mr Maria was investigating the high-profile Sheena Bora murder case makes it even more suspicious. We can argue whether the police commissioner should be seen to take such personal interest in a murder mystery, but by removing a highly decorated officer without any proper explanation, the wrong message has been sent down the line to the constabulary.
Worse, after the media raised questions, your government has once again backtracked and said that Mr Maria will continue to investigate the case even in his new post as DG, Home Guards. So, first you kick an officer upstairs, put a successor in place (who is undoubtedly a fine officer), and then create a dual reporting structure. The Mumbai Police’s reputation has taken a battering because of the transfer-posting industry created by the previous Congress-NCP governments; now, you have further demoralised them by sending out mixed signals.

Let me bring some clarity to the first issue you have raised. My state government did not take the decision to ban meat. Not a single new order went from the government to any local body. The Congress government in 2004 took the decision to close a slaughter-house for two days in Paryushan Parva. It was conveyed to all municipal corporations then. Since then all municipal corporations including Mira-Bhaindar started implementing it. Additionally municipal corporations like Mumbai and Mira-Bhaindar adopted resolutions to ban it for additional days within their own powers, which in the case of Mumbai dates back to 1994. Surprisingly, none of you ever objected to it until we came to power. Obviously you were comfortable with the pseudo-secular image of the previous government, howsoever corrupt and non-performing it was.It’s quite possible that you know this but it doesn’t suit your agenda.

Open letter to Rajdeep Sardesai: Devendra Fadnavis tells senior journalist he is ill-informed, biased

I welcome a debate and discussion on this…As always, please keep your tone civil, your language polite…no sweeping generalisations please and no personal abuse.  Thank you.

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