Disharmony within the ruling Congress-NCP alliance at the Centre as well as in the state has yet again come to the fore. While the NCP has begun all-out protests against the new diesel price hike and LPG restrictions, the Congress ruled out a reduction in value added tax (VAT) on fuel in the state.
The Sharad Pawar-led NCP yesterday asked its party workers to take to the streets against the diesel price hike and the ceiling on the number of LPG cylinders for domestic use.
The NCP workers were so determined to protest that in Thane they did not even spare their own leaders, and gheraoed the vehicles of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and a local MLA.
In Sangli and Satara districts, party workers were asked to register their protest with rasta rokos. More demonstrations are planned today, with NCP state women’s wing chief MLC Vidya Chavan scheduled to lead a protest march in Kandivli and city women’s wing chief Chitra Wagh in Elphinstone.
Party workers submitted a memorandum to the Nagpur District Collector, said NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase. The NCP action against the decisions on fuel is expected to widen the rift between it and the Congress.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is from the Congress, was unperturbed by the coalition partner’s move.
Speaking to mediapersons at Mantralaya, he ruled out any reduction in the VAT applicable on fuel. It may be recalled that when fuel prices were last hiked, NCP strongman Ajit Pawar had given a call for rasta roko.
Chavan scored another point over the NCP when he announced a white paper on MMRDA would be issued within 30 days. The demand was made by NCP leader and Home Minister R R Patil during the state cabinet meeting last week and was reiterated by him in Nashik on Monday, but the NCP had distanced itself from Patil’s demand.
Chavan’s announcement comes against the backdrop of the NCP stand that a white paper on MMRDA was not its demand but was Patil’s personal view — NCP chief spokesman Nawab Malik had made this clear on Thursday.
Chavan also said there was nothing wrong in asking for a white paper as it showed the progress of various projects run by a particular department and did not necessarily mean scams and corruption. The CM also sought to pour cold water on the NCP demand for an immediate cabinet reshuffle, saying such an exercise could be undertaken by November-end, prior to the Winter Session of the state legislature that is scheduled to start on December 10.
On Industries Minister Narayan Rane’s meeting with party chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi yesterday and speculation of his taking over as the next CM, Chavan said he had received no communication asking him to shift to Delhi.