Prithviraj Chavan upset with NCP's soft corner for traders

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is upset with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) over a public letter the Congress’ coalition partner wrote addressing him on the issue of local body tax (LBT). He is believed to have questioned the move late on Tuesday night, government sources said.

Retailers organised a bike rally from Borivli to Masjid Bunder to protest the LBT proposed by the state. Pic/Nimesh Dave

The CM was apparently unhappy with traders for their political gimmicks to thwart the LBT. This became evident when his office issued a press release yesterday, blaming a section of the business community for misleading the general public. Traders should not indulge in politics and should concentrate on business, conveyed the tone of the release.

Then came the NCP’s letter, giving the impression that the party favoured the traders in their protest against the state-proposed LBT. This did not go down well with the CM. The Sharad Pawar-led party had, in a public letter signed by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state NCP chief Madhukar Pichad, demanded the formation of a committee comprising ministers and representatives of the trading community to study the issue and address the concerns raised by the retailers.

Soon after the letter was made public, Chavan is believed to have called up senior leaders of the NCP, expressing strong reservations about it. “We can always have a discussion on the issue within the government. There was no need for such a letter or a subsequent debate on it,” he is believed to have told the NCP leaders. Such was the CM’s stand that the state cabinet, which had a meeting after a gap of 26 days, did not take up any discussion on the issue despite its effect across the state.

“The CM and his deputy may have decided to discuss it at their level,” quipped a minister. After the NCP’s letter that supposedly put the CM in a spot, Congress swung into action. Yesterday, the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) announced that the party sided firmly with the CM. “Those concerned with LBT or teachers’ strike could raise the issues with the CM, who will make efforts to safeguard interest of the sections affected by it,” said the resolution adopted during a meeting of party office bearers at Tilak Bhavan.

Meanwhile, the press release issued by the CM’s office said that while evolving a consensus, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had said that it was trying to implement the LBT from October 1 this year, which would only boost Mumbai’s image as a business-friendly city.

The decision to implement the LBT was taken after a discussion in the state legislature. Now, when the legislature was the appropriate forum to discuss and debate the issue, some traders were tying to mislead the general public on the issue, the release said. The LBT is meant to bring in financial discipline, safeguard interests of the state, remove lacunae in the tax collection system and especially to replace the outdated octroi system, it said. 

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