Mumbai: Shiv Sena-BJP's budgeted tug of war

As the ruling party attempts to prevent another washout week in the Budget Session, the Sena is looking to push for the farmer loan waiver

Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray
Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray

In the second week of the state's Budget Session, two words are going to define the direction it will go in — bargain and bait. After a first week washout, when the house reconvenes after four days, the BJP will go in with the knowledge that its ruling partner, at the behest of party chief Uddhav Thackeray, and in conjunction with Congress and the NCP, has threatened to stall proceedings over the demand for a Rs 22,000-crore loan waiver for farmers.

This is apparently in a bid to bargain with the BJP that the Sena legislators be given more development funds and schemes in the budget to be presented on March 18, so what remains to be seen is what bait the BJP offers to the Sena so that it can avoid embarrassment on the floor.

Sena's bargain
People in the know say that there a couple of reasons for this posturing on the Sena's behalf. While one is that the party wants to mount pressure on its on-again-off-again partner after the ZP and BMC polls, the other appears to be that Sena's own MLAs are unhappy with the party leaders from the upper house who scored berths on the cabinet due to their proximity to the top leadership, but have not performed.

In a meeting of Sena legislators last week, the ministers were taken to task by the MLAs. Following this meeting, Sena ministers and MLAs approached CM Devendra Fadnavis to seek quick approval to their proposals and demand for more funds.

BJP's bait
Fadnavis, meanwhile, is reported to have told the visiting MLAs to not worry about development funds, assuring them treatment at par with BJP legislators. In fact, he has reportedly been helping several disgruntled Sena MLAs in a bid to get them to defect to the BJP ahead of the next Assembly polls.

"We understand that the CM has assured the Sena leaders that their requests will be expedited, but has made it clear that he needs more time to announce a loan waiver. He does not want to replicate the UPA model of loan waivers that ultimately hasn't been able to stop farmer suicides," said a senior BJP leader.

An official from the finance department explained, "The state doesn't have much money. The loan waiver will at least need Rs 22,000 crore at one go, and no government which is ridden with a debt burden of Rs 3.65 lakh crore can announce it immediately. At the most, we can expect some sops for farmers in the next fiscal budget being presented on Saturday."

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