It was a day of frenetic negotiations and quiet but urgent decision-making at the Democratic Front yesterday, as panic mounted over the Congress-NCP impasse. NCP ministers in the state cabinet looked poised to follow in the footsteps of their leaders in Delhi, who have stopped attending their offices, returned government vehicles, and given the Congress an ultimatum. On the other hand, the state’s Congress unit struggled to maintain its composure amidst reports that some of the party MLAs had submitted a letter targeting CM Prithviraj Chavan, and expressing unhappiness with the affairs of the state.
The atmosphere at Vidhan Bhavan was fraught with unease. MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre put up a brave face, claiming that there was no discord within the Congress and denying the existence of a letter. Confounding his claims, however, a copy of the letter surfaced a few hours later.
NCP state unit chief Madhukar Pichad, on the other hand, rejected Thakre’s overture of asking him to offer convenient dates for the coordination committee meeting. “I have told Thakre that this was the first time since I wrote to the CM for a meeting that such a response has come. But only the CM is authorised to call for such a meeting. So I have advised him to discuss the issue with the CM first,” Pichad said.
Many of the NCP ministers, including Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, are reported to be unhappy about the developments that may end the 12-year-old alliance in the state. The party’s leadership at the Centre has also asked the state unit to deliver its verdict on whether it wants to part ways with the Congress. Soon, the state cabinet members too may stop attending their offices in Mantralaya and their official vehicles, said a NCP leader. Ajit Pawar made his own gesture of defiance by staying away from the state cabinet meeting held at Vidhan Bhavan yesterday.
The mood at the Congress camp was grim, with ministers speculating about the fate of the government in the event that NCP pulls out.
The letter of complaint written by Congress legislators bears 43 names, but only 38 signatures. The letter, undated and without a letterhead, is addressed to Manikrao Thakre, and speaks of certain unresolved issues in Vidarbha and Marathwada. It also complains of disenchantment among citizens and lists 14 demands for underdeveloped regions. Though it doesn’t mention Chavan, the tone of the letter makes it clear that the MLAs are unhappy with the leadership. It demands that more cabinet berths be offered to Congress MLAs and independents leaders who have stood by the government.
Sources said that soon after the letter was received, the CM summoned a few of the MLAs to discuss the issues raised by them. He is likely to meet the Congress high command during his trip to Delhi today.
Speaking to the media, MLA Vijay Vadettiwar, a staunch supporter of former CM Ashok Chavan and a signatory in the letter, said that it concerned some issues of regional development and was not against the CM. “The government is doing fine and we are with the CM,” he said.