Congress MPs and MLAs from the city had to push Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to resolve the issue of implementation of local body tax (LBT). City traders called off the strike yesterday. However, before this announcement, some interesting developments took place behind the curtains, say political sources.
On Thursday, Chavan chaired a meeting with representatives of traders and their organisations at Sahyadri Guest House in Malabar Hill, where only Congress MPs, MLAs and ministers were present. Despite being a part of the coalition government, no NCP minister, MP or MLA was present during the meeting.
The issue of LBT and aggressive approach by city traders turned out to be a full-blown political controversy. On one hand, the Congressmen were wary of the NCP’s decision to keep distance by supporting the traders and calling for an early solution. On the other hand, the party men were worried about a political fall-out due to the prolonged strike and its repercussions during the coming elections, as traders had declared that they were not going to cooperate with the party during the elections.
Congress leaders influenced Chavan to have a meeting by pointing out that he was not going to face any problem as he was not required to fight direct elections either to Lok Sabha or the state assembly. Currently, the CM is a member of the state council. “Even if you wanted to return to Delhi politics, you can always go to the Parliament as a Rajya Sabha member but we have no option but to approach traders and the general public for votes,” a party MP told the CM.
It was only after the Congress leaders convinced the CM, who had told traders to withdraw the stir if they wanted any discussion with the government, agreed for a meeting.
Union Minister of State Milind Deora, Textiles Minister Naseem Khan, Public Health Minister Suresh Shetty, MPs Gurudas Kamat, Priya Dutt, Eknath Gaikwad, and MRCC chief Janardan Chandurkar were present during the meeting with the traders.
However, even during the meeting, Chavan made it clear to the traders that there was no specific deadline to introduce LBT in Mumbai and the government will try to evolve consensus in the State Legislature while approving modifications in the concerned act. The agitation caused heavy losses to traders and troubled the consumers. Still, the chief minister made it clear that there was no alternative to LBT. He also assured traders of withdrawal of cases registered against them during the strike.
Two weeks ago, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had expressed firm resolve to implement the LBT regime. His unyielding stand had come to the fore when the Supreme Court refused to stay the state’s decision to implement LBT from October 1 in Mumbai