Congress offers olive branch, NCP grabs it

The storms seem to have finally passed for the Democratic Front government, the prolonged crisis culminating at a high level meeting in Delhi yesterday. What gifts the NCP really took away from it remains a mystery. The official story is that that the disgruntled party was appeased after it received assurance from the Congress that regular meetings would be held, with coordination committees being formed in Mumbai and Delhi for the same.

Friends again? CM Prithviraj Chavan with NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal: File pic

The last meeting of the state coordination committee was held on May 11 last year. Matters went steadily downhill after that, with NCP complaining that the Congress leadership was not consulting its alliance partner before announcing key policy decisions. NCP was particularly unhappy that CM Chavan didn’t keep NCP leaders in the loop.

The crisis was precipitated by a slew of incidents – there was the last-minute cancellation of the inauguration of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. Then Chavan announced a white paper on the irrigation sector. Chavan also raised hackles at the NCP quarters for his disinclination to discuss issues related to urban development and housing departments with stakeholders close to NCP.

On Tuesday, state unit chief for NCP Madhukar Pichad had dropped hints that lack of communication was the key cause for the stand off, when he said that he had received no response to a letter he had written six months ago calling for a coordination committee meeting. The Congress high command has now assured the NCP that regular discussions will be held on policy decisions before formal announcements are made. Two dates have already been suggested – July 27 and 31.

It is hoped by the NCP leaders that the revival of the coordination committee will give them a forum to air their views on Prithviraj Chavan’s running of the government, said a senior leader.

Empty threats?
At the onset, the NCP’s rants in New Delhi seemed to set the stage for a major political upheaval with NCP poised to rein in its Big Brothers in the UPA and the Democratic Front.

However, when the NCP said it would offer support to the UPA ‘from outside,’ it was evident that the storm had its own limits, that of one in a teacup. Neither did NCP approach BJP, Shiv Sena or MNS to discuss the possibility of a fresh alliance that could topple the Congress-led state government. 

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