Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis talks about ushering the state into a new era

Shri Devendra Fadnavis, Deputy Chief Minister, Maharashtra, opens up about his mission to help the state inch closer to its trillion-dollar economy goal, bringing smiles to its citizens, and encouraging the youth to step up.

By Andrea CostaBir

The former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis’ goal had always been to nurture the state and usher it into a new era that is progressive and prosperous. His pursuit of this goal continues in his role as Deputy Chief Minister. We caught up with him to learn more about what lies ahead for Maharashtra.

Excerpts from the interview…

From a 5-year term to an 80-hour term as Chief Minister of Maharashtra to holding fort as Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra today… what major milestones are you still waiting to reach?
Let me put this on record: for me, a milestone is not the post I represent, but the kind of role I play. We are here in politics not to keep or just rotate posts, but to serve the people and society. What matters most to me is to hold the fort for people’s welfare. We are true sainiks of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. For us, good governance and serving Maharashtra matters; not the post held. In my entire life, I never imagined becoming a corporator, mayor, MLA, or CM. But I am happy that I successfully tried to fulfil people’s aspirations in every role. Even today, I continue to do the same as DCM.

Has your vision for Maharashtra changed from the time you were Chief Minister to today as Deputy CM? What are your chief priorities for the state?
Not at all. There is no change in my hopes and dreams for the state when I was Chief Minister and now as Deputy Chief Minister. I still have the dream of a trillion-dollar economy. And that is what we are trying to do. We, as a government, are focused on creating and supporting world-class infrastructure to promote local commerce, increase investment, generate employment and attain sustainable development.

What according to you is the biggest challenge facing Maharashtra currently?
Uncertainty in the agriculture sector. Farming should be profitable. Take the current scenario: The state had heavy rains. Hence, our first priority is to help the farmers recover from the huge loss of agriculture. Along with this, while considering the far-reaching consequences, I think it is important to provide employment to the youth while reducing dependence on agriculture and developing entrepreneurship and skills among them.

Considering that yours is a Double Engine Government, what are your future plans for the people of Maharashtra? Please tell us about the positive changes we can expect which will improve our quality of life.
Whenever we speak of a double engine, yes, we feel more empowered to have the firm support of a leader like Hon PM Narendra Modi_ji_. Even during his address last week, he spoke on the assistance Maharashtra is getting. Under his leadership during 2014-19, Maharashtra saw a massive jump in all the infrastructure projects. We planned for around 300km of metro network in Mumbai. More than ₹2 lakh crore projects have begun in Mumbai. The Coastal Road project, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, road and rail projects, and Navi Mumbai Airport have all begun, and with the completion of these projects in the next 2-3 years, you will see the changes happening in the lives of people. Maharashtra Samruddhi Corridor, measures taken to bring changes in the lives of farmers, and huge investments in developing cities are some of the other measures. We are definitely planning a few more projects which, on completion, will make a huge difference to the state’s economy and people’s lives.

Do you have a game plan to attract investment and tourism opportunities in Maharashtra on a global scale?
Yes, even earlier, when we were in power, we brought a lot of investment to Maharashtra. Unfortunately, in the last three years, Maharashtra suffered a lot. In order to promote religious tourism in the state, development of Pandharpur Corridor on the lines of Ujjain Mahakal, provision of facilities for tourist spots, Tiger Gate Way, and emergence of a sophisticated tourism system in Konkan are being emphasized. Besides, Maharashtra has always been the first-choice state for industry.
An ecosystem has to be created for an industry to come up, for an industry to survive, and for new entrepreneurs to emerge. We put emphasis on all of these from 2014-2019. Maharashtra was at the top in Ease of Doing Business from 2014 to 2019. Many policies like electronics, e-vehicles, and textiles were planned with a vision. We will endeavour to implement these policies effectively. Apart from this, now an electronics cluster is being developed in Maharashtra. While measuring the economy and economic progress of any country, the main point of economic and industrial criteria is the increased employment and self-employment opportunities due to economic-industrial progress. Employment is not only a measure of economic achievement, but also a measure of economic progress of the country. Promotion of the industrial sector has been undertaken through ‘Jan-Dhan Yojana’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Start-up’, ‘Smart City’, ‘Ayushman Bharat’, banking reforms, and simplification and streamlining of business processes. Small-scale industries account for about 30 percent of the national economy.
Also, this sector contributes to almost half of India’s exports. Maharashtra and India’s financial capital, Mumbai, will add immense value to these corridors and vice versa. In addition to the development of AURIC (the Aurangabad Industrial City, which is a greenfield industrial smart city over an area of 10,000 acres in Aurangabad, Maharashtra) and other such nodes, we are also developing a Smart Industrial City in Nagpur.

How do you see Maharashtra contributing to the nation’s growth?
Maharashtra has tremendous responsibility to relentlessly contribute to the Prime Minister’s vision of New India, particularly because Maharashtra has been the lighthouse for India’s industrial growth and continues to be the largest contributor to the Indian economy. We, in Maharashtra, have resolved to be the first trillion-dollar economy in the country. I believe it is possible by focusing on four pillars – Infrastructure, Industry, Investment and Technology. AURIC is a shining example of the assimilation of all these four pillars.
Due to Maharashtra’s strategic location and it being home to India’s largest ports, we are also going to play a crucial role in the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan to ensure smooth logistics and infrastructure development. Additionally, the State is also in the process of developing several Multi Modal Logistics Parks in coordination with the Government of India.
It is a matter of pride for Maharashtra that four of the 11 planned industrial corridors are passing through the state. These planned corridors have the potential to create vibrant industrial ecosystems and help attract key investments, thereby moving forward toward Atmanirbharta.

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your growing years? Do you have a mentor/idol/role model?
Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts have always guided me. Apart from this, I consider former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as my mentor. His vision and thinking are important to me and no doubt, Hon PM Narendra Modi_ji_ is a role model for all of us. His supreme dedication, selfless service and commitment to the national cause inspires us to do a lot more.

What are the main characteristics required to be a leader? Could you share some advice for upcoming leaders?
Leadership is all about doing things right. It is very important for leaders to be aware that any organisation or political party is a part of society. It is necessary to try not to harm the environment and society. If the leader’s reading and comprehension are good, he becomes aware of what kind of work or change has to be done for society. It helps him stay ahead. No matter how efficient a leader is, he cannot do anything without the help of his karyakartas. Post COVID-19, most people noticed significant and dramatic changes in their work, the nature of their work, and their performance. The whole world is in search of new ideas, and new methods. Significant changes are the addition of important human aspects, including personal capabilities, to the computerized and up-to-date managerial and responsible work based on technology. Now in this new situation, it is inevitable for leaders to manage change successfully. In addition, they have to deal with controlling unforeseen socio-political situations, by making flexible decisions.

You are already playing a big role in national politics. Do you enjoy handling pan-India responsibilities?
I am happy that whatever responsibility my party and leaders give me, I fulfil with topmost dedication. I have never aspired to a higher status. To me, party karyakarta is the topmost post. Our leaders gave me the responsibility of Bihar and Goa elections, today they made me a member of the Central Election Committee, which is a topmost body in our party structure. My party made me CM of a state like Maharashtra. When my party gives me everything despite not asking for it, why do I need to think about the future? Today, I am happy in my own state and committed to fulfilling every expectation of my party.

You share a good rapport with political leaders across parties. How do you preserve your personal relationships with your political opponents?
I believe that there are no permanent opponents in politics. Therefore, when looking at opponents, we should not see them as enemies, but as people with different opinions. The opposition should not be to the person, but to the idea… and while doing it, one should think about right and wrong.

What is your message for the youth who want to join politics?
There is a need for active involvement of the youth in politics for a number of reasons. Firstly, they have a constructive vision for the future and the fact that they have achieved milestones in other fields proves that they can change politics too. Secondly, the system needs them. It has been 75 years since Independence, and we have seen similar trends in politics, especially in dynasty parties repeating themselves, thus showing that politics is caught in a vicious circle. Here, participation of the youth could play a great role. Thirdly, youth participation will increase the dialogue between the general populace and the leaders, as 65% of the population consists of the youth. This will ease communication and bridge the gap between the electors and the elected. In Gandhi’s proverbial expression, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” They could be game changers for the simple reason that they realise the problems in the status quo and have the potential to change them.
Today, India has the largest number of youth in the world. If they choose to serve the nation substantially, they must understand the machinery of our democracy and share their strong shoulders to steer the wheels in the direction they want. We need to expand the word ‘self’ to ‘society’ if we really intend to go ahead with a mission to contribute selflessly to society and the country, instead of self-indulging in our day-to-day problems. Demonstrations, protests, street plays and candlelight marches can raise awareness and focus attention on burning issues but ultimately, the power to bring change rests with those who sit in Parliament.

What is a regular day in the life of Devendra Fadnavis like? Please give us an insight into your work day… and also how you relax thereafter.
I wake up at 7 a.m. and start my day at 9 a.m. Meeting people starts early in the morning. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., I usually conduct official meetings; Monday to Wednesday. My evenings are also taken up by various meetings which tend to go on till late night.
On Thursday and Friday, I used to attend programmes across Maharashtra. Saturday and Sunday are reserved for my own constituency and meeting people at Nagpur. Leaders and karykartas from Vidarbha usually meet me on these days.
I hardly find time to relax outside of that. But, meeting people and solving their issues is my relaxation as this gives me pleasure and satisfaction.
As for resting, the body automatically relaxes when it is tired due to a hectic daily schedule (laughs).

What makes you happy? What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
Serving people makes me happy.
When our CM Relief Fund helped perform heart surgeries for small children and they stood to welcome me – that is a moment I will never forget. Bringing smiles to the faces of those suffering from various difficulties will always be my greatest achievement.

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