Adding fuel to the ongoing fire of discord in running the Democratic Front government, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) raised an objection over a proposal of making mayors more powerful and making them ex-officio chairpersons of the standing committee in municipal corporations.
The issue on giving more powers to mayors generated a heated debate as the NCP questioned the motive of introducing the proposal to amend the concerned Act in the cabinet meeting. Sources said senior NCP minister Jayant Patil argued at length over the issue and he was later joined by Industries Minister Narayan Rane.
According to sources, the NCP thinks that the proposal was to disturb the political equation in the municipal bodies where the NCP has wrested power by joining hands with the BJP and Shiv Sena. The move has angered the party, and the proposal to make mayors more powerful will disturb the equation as the posts of standing committee heads were given to the coalition partners.
If the mayor is appointed as the ex-officio chairperson of the standing committee, the balance of coalition would be in jeopardy, feels the alliance partner. Though Rane belongs to the Congress, he too questioned the timing of the proposal. Sources also said Minister of State for Urban Development Bhaskar Jadhav, who is from NCP, was unaware of the proposal till a few days back. “It came all of a sudden,” said another minister. “Many of the cabinet ministers suggested that if the government was really interested in making the mayor more powerful, the mayor-in-council system should be reintroduced,” he added.
Later, the NCP threatened to appear before the media if the presentation on development of irrigation projects was delayed further. The issue is gathering public attention since CM Prithviraj Chavan announced a white paper on the irrigation department, which is with the NCP since 1999. Allegations of massive corruption have been made against the department and particularly against Dy CM Ajit Pawar who has been heading it for many years.
To clear its side, the NCP has prepared a presentation but it could not be presented before the cabinet for the last four meetings. Sensing a Congress ploy to keep the issue burning, NCP ministers were aggressive on Wednesday and demanded the irrigation department be allowed to present. After a brief debate, the CM agreed for a special cabinet meeting, which will take place on Thursday.