A very thin line exists between friends and foes in politics. The political north and south poles always meet during polls, irrespective of ideologies and differences of opinions. A prime example of this is seen here in Maharashtra, where the Congress is in alliance with NCP, a breakaway party from the Congress itself, which was formed in opposition of the Congress chief for her foreign origins. It’s no cause for surprise then that though the parties have been in alliance for 13 years now, their relations have soured.
The past week has laid bare all the acrimony once again. Soon after the Democratic Front government in its cabinet meeting on Wednesday approved the state industrial policy, NCP started playing a different tune, rather cleverly. Despite the fact that the chief minister did not allow the Directorate General of Public Relations and Information to issue a press release on industrial policy, contents of it made their way into the media. The official press briefing was scheduled on Thursday but the media reports clearly said the policy was not really an industrial one,but rather a housing one.
Since both the chief minister and the industry minister Narayan Rane belong to Congress, there was no possibility of contents of the policy being leaked by a Congress member. There is ample scope to believe that it was the NCP that played it very cleverly this time. In most of the media reports, the focus was on the manner in which senior NCP Ministers had raised their concerns and objections vociferously during the drawing up of the policy. The next day, both Chavan and Rane had a tough time dealing with the media during the official briefing. Since then, the Congress party in general and Chavan and Rane in particular have been trying to clear the air.
Going to the heart of the matter, it’s easy to discern that the NCP has paid it back to the Congress. This may well be Sharad Pawar’s party’s attempt to score a point, after the furore over the white paper on irrigation presented to the state cabinet in the month of November. After the cabinet meeting on the white paper, media reports appearing prematurely had details focusing on the clean chit given to Ajit Pawar, and the lack of focus on the alleged corruption he was involved it. At that point, focus was on the Congress, which of late has not been on good terms with the alliance partner, and suggestions were made that it had leaked the contents to the media.
And now, the reports on the industrial policy say that NCP ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, RR Patil and Jayant Patil raised several questions over the free hand given to the promoters of special economic zones (SEZs) for the development of housing stock and commercial exploitation of the land.
They are said to have been argued that the policy might turn out as bonanza to the developers who may rake in crores by commercial developments, as the SEZs are located near major urban centres such as Navi Mumbai, Panvel, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad. Both the CM and the Industry Minister were quite upset over the reports and since then have been busy giving interviews and clearing the air. In the meantime, a senior NCP Minister, in an informal chat with the media, added fuel to the fire, saying he had never seen such a mammoth housing scam.
Whatever be the clarification offered by Chavan and Rane, SEZ was the most contentious issue in the state industry policy, which was deliberated over by Chavan for months. The policy was in the making before the industrial policy drawn up in 2007 ended on March 31, 2011. Before the new policy was approved, as many as five extensions had to be given to the old policy, as no consensus was emerging on SEZ lands and its development in the future. The government’s predicament can be easily gauged on the issue. The NCP has turned tables on the Congress, even though it has ‘officially’ supported the
Political one-upmanship aside, it is a fact that the state has been lagging behind the neighbouring state of Gujarat in terms of achieving industrial development. New projects set up in recent time havefailed to create jobs for locals. Also, there is lot to be said about the incentives offered to industrial houses and the loss that the state suffered in terms of revenue income. Perhaps a little less clandestine mudslinging would help?
- The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY