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An unnerving week

It’s been a disconcerting week for citizens, as well as their self-involved leaders. In the political circles, NCP threw a royal tantrum about the Congress party and its ways, both at the Centre and in the state. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar caught the Congress off guard when he raised some uncomfortable questions about the party’s methods of running a coalition government.

Meanwhile, the hapless common man’s day-to-day life was once again thrown out of gear — train accidents, strikes on the WR lines, a shocking mishap on the freeway in Wadala — it was a week of horrors for the average Mumbaikar.

You might think it is difficult to relate the two issues. But remember that the NCP’s outburst brought to the fore the unstable nature of our coalition governments. Any government should be solely committed to deliver in the interest of public good, and such obvious problems in a coalition government is sure to take a toll on policy and decision-making, which in turn affects the common man.

With the issues being raised by NCP, it appears that the party is not happy the way it is being treated by the Congress leadership at the state level, especially by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who NCP has taken particular exception to.

Inaugurations cancelled at the last moment, corruption allegations against PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare, issues related to Lavasa, disagreements over the inflated costs of construction of dams, and cases against developers known to be close to its leaders — these are only a few issues that have put the two parties at odds with each other. NCP leaders have been facing charges of corruption in various issues raised by media as well as parties in the Opposition.

NCP leaders claim these allegations are being planted in the media to provide fodder to the Opposition. The Congress, again, wants to rein in NCP, which has been aggressively strengthening its base. So Prithviraj Chavan's actions are not unexpected from a dyed-in-the-wool Congress man.

Also, Chavan does not protect personal interests of leaders under him — for instance, he hasn’t lifted a finger to give special treatment to some NCP leaders involved closely with the Lavasa project. He is reportedly keen on scrapping a special planning authority appointed for the same.
Chavan hasn’t given the green signal for withdrawal of police cases against 29 odd builders who have not returned mandatory development area from the buildings constructed under MHADA's redevelopment scheme. He has reportedly provided crucial data related to a Rs 10,500 crore tender floated by Mahavitaran, a power utility, in which NCP leaders are said to have raked in Rs 1,800 crore of underhand profits.

NCP is also upset over Chavan’s insistence on a probe into Rs 1,200 crore payment by CIDCO to the Water Resources Department for the construction of Balganga dam in Raigad district. The amount was transferred in a suspicious manner and with surprising haste, it is said.
The Water Resources Department is a portfolio that has been with the NCP since 1999, and any blame for irregularities has to be shouldered by the party. It’s no doubt then that the fate of the coalition government hinges in the balance, with the NCP making its disgruntlement clear.

On the other hand, Congress is worried about the ambitious Ajit Pawar, and the way he eyes Congress bastions by inviting prominent local faces to join his party. He is popular among legislators, party office bearers and workers, because of his bracing ways and his practicality.

One wishes that the politicians would be engaging in such angst-ridden debate when they were discussing the recent spate of accidents at infrastructure projects and the railway network of the nation’s commercial capital.

Are our leaders at all concerned about the deteriorating public life in Mumbai? While all these political strategies are hatched, do our politicians cast even a stray thought about development, safety and the common good? Hardly any politician who represents the hapless Mumbaikar is ready to question the Railway Ministry and the MMRDA over the poor management of their operations.

Almost no discussions are taking place — at the parliament, the legislature. Even the citizen’s organisations and NGOs appear unwilling to come raise the uncomfortable questions.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY

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