True to its habit of sweeping uncomfortable matters under the carpet, the Democratic Front government yesterday avoided discussing any contentious issues during its weekly cabinet meeting. Even though the cabinet met after an eventful fortnight, it tiptoed around controversial issues such as the recent lavish wedding by some ruling party members, taking care not to allow debate on it.
Since NCP minister Bhaskar Jadhav’s vulgar display of wealth even invited an inspection from the Income Tax department, it was expected that the state government would take a call on the issue. But according to ministers, no one dared to raise the issue, and rather chose to discuss the possibility of state-wide chaos in the following months owing to the severe drought.
With the state reeling under water scarcity, a large number of families are expected to migrate towards Mumbai, Pune and surrounding areas in search of livelihood. The drought has also divided the cabinet, with ministers from Marathwada and Vidarbha regions alleging that they are receiving step-motherly treatment, in comparison to areas in western Maharashtra, from where CM Chavan and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar hail.
When Water Conservation Minister Nitin Raut demanded a look into the comparative distribution of relief funds doled out in districts represented by Congress and NCP ministers, CM Chavan is believed to have nipped his idea in the bud. “We should not discuss such issues at the moment,” Chavan told his party colleague, who represents Nagpur.
The cabinet also decided to make available huge funds for payment of arrears to the beneficiaries of the lift irrigation schemes, which have not been sanctioned in the past. Ministers were heard complaining in private that such decisions could kick off fresh controversy, as there are hundreds of lift irrigation schemes and massive amounts to be paid in terms of arrears — amounts that should now be channelled into drought relief.
Meanwhile, the state cabinet decided to donate a month’s salary of all the ministers for the drought relief fund. The decision comes after at least three ministers voluntarily donated their salaries. Home Minister R R Patil was the first to send his cheque to the CM, followed by Textiles Minister Naseem Khan and Minister of State for Housing Sachin Ahir. Congress MLAs from Mumbai have also decided to donate their salaries.