Opposition returns to House after BJP, Congress become allies in Gondia

The BJP’s trick of forging a post-poll alliance with the Congress in the Vidarbha zilla parishad broke the deadlock and forced both opposition parties to end their Assembly boycott and join the debate

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to break the deadlock in the ongoing Monsoon Session of the state legislature and get both opposition parties to join the debate, by forging an alliance with the Congress in the far-flung Gondia zilla parishad (ZP).

State Congress chief Ashok Chavan along with other party leaders at Vidhan Bhavan yesterday. Pic/PTI
State Congress chief Ashok Chavan along with other party leaders at Vidhan Bhavan yesterday. Pic/PTI

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which had decided to forge a post-poll alliance with the Congress in Gondia, broke away from the latter on Thursday and joined the legislative proceedings. The two opposition parties had been boycotting the sessions for the past three days over the issue of loan waivers to farmers.

The two zilla parishads in Vidarbha Gondia and Bhandara went to polls recently. These results came as a shock to the BJP, as Congress and NCP emerged as leading parties while the ruling party came in third. The voters did not favour the BJP despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari having campaigned for the party.

In Bhandara, the Congress and NCP forged an alliance and a similar plan had been in place for Gondia. However, the BJP swooped in and tied up with the Congress, leaving the NCP miffed. The announcement of the alliance was made on Wednesday.

Thus, the united Congress-NCP assault that the BJP had had to endure in the past three days was broken, and the NCP decided to attend the session proceedings. A couple of hours after the NCP attended the Assembly, the Congress, which had been sitting it out till then, also agreed to take part in the debate for demanding a loan waiver for distressed farmers, and engaged itself in improving relations with the NCP.

State Congress chief Ashok Chavan told mid-day that he was working on patching up with NCP. “There are some issues with the NCP that we need to resolve at the earliest.  We had decided to forge a post-poll alliance with the NCP, but the local leadership had something else on its mind,” he said.

Congress MLA Gopaldas Agrawal, who was instrumental in joining hands with the BJP, has been summoned by his party bosses to Mumbai. State NCP president Sunil Tatkare accused the Congress of cheating and said he failed to understand the ex-ally’s “evil ways.”

BJP sources said the NCP, too, had offered them a deal for the ZPs, but it did not accept it and, instead, went with the Congress. This is seen as a counter to senior NCP leader and ex-union minister Praful Patel, who was beaten in the Lok Sabha by a BJP candidate last year.

Loan waiver not in offing?
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has a daunting task at hand. Sources said that the government would need at least Rs 24,000 crore if it were to write off farm loans of all farmers in the state.

Fadnavis, who will reply to the debate on the issue today, is expected to reject the demand and, instead, announce long-term measures for developing agriculture in the state. Sources said the cash-strapped state did not have such a huge sum to assist farmers.

“The state spends around Rs 20,000 crore on development work every year, and it takes an annual loan of Rs 24,000 crore. The economics of a loan waiver is not feasible for the state, which is already under financial duress,” said a senior minister.

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