Mumbai: With BJP and Shiv Sena comfortably placed in the government in Maharashtra, former allies Congress and NCP who ruled the state for 15 years are nowfighting for the main opposition space in the state.
BJP, which formed its first government in the state, feels the divided opposition will help it to govern in abetter way. Though both the parties do not see an immediate reunion to challenge the ruling alliance, NCP leaders do not rule out the possibility completely.
They say a decision will be taken when elections are close, depending on the prevailing political situation of that time. Recently, both the parties made an attempt to come together for floor coordination in the state legislature to counter the state government on the issue of drought.
Congress state president Manikrao Thakre has also said that after his party gets the Leader of Opposition post, it will bring all the Opposition parties together for a strong force to oppose the government. However, the coordination was short-lived with NCP moving a no-confidence motion against veteran Congressman and Legislative council chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh in the ongoing Nagpur Winter Session.
BJP feels that the efforts of floor coordination will not work politically as both Congress and NCP do not see eye to eye on the issue of Leader of Opposition post itself. NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said the focus of both the parties now would be organisational strengthening, launching membership drives and raising issue-based movements aggressively to take on the government.
Malik said NCP has eight to 10 leaders with mass base who are good orators and can take up issues of people. However, Congress leaders like Prithviraj Chavan and Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil don't command a following in their own party, he claimed. "In about six months, NCP will overtake Congress as the main opposition party," Malik claimed. In the Assembly polls, NCP bagged 41 seats while Congress 42 despite having contested all the 288 seats on their own.
"Each NCP leader like Ajit Pawar, R R Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal, Sunil Tatkare have a role defined for them unlike the Congress," Malik said.
When asked about the corruption charges against NCP leaders, Malik said, "Levelling false allegations and proving them are two different things.
"He also said NCP has a regional perspective and with Shiv Sena joining the government, it has opportunity to play the regional party role in opposition. He pointed out that the NCP was ahead of Congress in 135 constituencies in the Assembly polls.
"Our party is an alternate force in these constituencies." "While Congress was ahead of us only in Mumbai and Vidarbha," he added. Congress spokesman Ratnakar Mahajan said Shiv Sena-BJP government is stable for the time being. "But given their bickering in the past, it is doubtful whether the government would last its full term. It looks improbable.
Just recently, Shiv Sena leaders spoke of attacking the BJP government over the spate of farmers suicides," Mahajan said. "For all practical purposes, NCP belongs to the ruling coalition as it was the first party to announce its support to the BJP government. Public perception is that NCP supports the BJP government. After Shiv Sena joined the government, NCP has not even made a formal declaration that it has withdrawn its support.
"NCP is his (Devendra Fadnavis) loyal opposition," he charged. He also refuted the charge that Congress did not have mass based leaders, saying, "It is vague term. Just getting elected from one constituency does not make a person mass based leader.
Those who work with people, raise their issues are also leaders with mass base." Mahajan hit out at the NCP for claiming Leader of Opposition post in both the Houses of the state legislature. "If Congress is willing to concede the post to NCP in council since it has more numbers, why can't NCP do the same in the Assembly. "This is nothing but lust for position," he charged. He alleged the NCP was in collusion with BJP to corner the Congress.
"The decision of announcing Leader of Opposition in both Houses has been deferred as BJP is ready to oblige NCP," Mahajan alleged. BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari said Congress and NCP do not have the mindset to come together. "There is no floor coordination. If it was there they could have resolved the Leader of Opposition issue amicably.
Congress could have claimed the post in Assembly while NCP could have done in the council based on their numerical strength in both the Houses. "Congress, NCP are making contradictory claims and it is not our job to help the opposition to resolve their differences," he said.
"Congress can make any charges of collusion with NCP. We are not interested in resolving their issues. If they had coordination the Leader of Opposition issue would have been settled on the first day of the Winter Session," Bhandari said.
Mahajan said Leader of Opposition post was just a formal position. "We are a natural opposition party now and will take on the Sena-BJP on ideological issues and policies and programmes strongly." Bhandari was of the opinion that with Shiv Sena-BJP government in majority and considering the numbers the saffron allies have in the Assembly, there is virtually no opposition in the state.
"We are now free to implement our election promise of probing corruption, bringing administrative reforms in agriculture, industrial development and drought management. "For example, my proposal of fitting GPS on tankers in drought areas has been accepted by the government. Earlier, the demand had come up but the previous government and tanker lobby was not accepting it.
"There were malpractices as normally one tanker can make one or two rounds for water supply provision in a day... but it would be shown on records that one tanker makes ten rounds. "This happened because of the racket of tanker lobby, government officials and politicians. If GPS monitoring is fitted, corruption will be eradicated and the expenditure shown on water tankers in drought areas would be brought down.
"There is opposition from some quarters even now but the Chief Minister and Agriculture minister, who is also the revenue minister, have the will to go for GPS," he said. "Due to majority, the government is also able to supply water from Jaikwadi dam to Marathwada. We are committed to equitable distribution of water and Marathwada should get its share of water. Earlier government had failed to do so," Bhandari said.
According to him, Sena and BJP have decided to leave their election bitterness behind them. We both are politically mature to have a practical approach. "BJP does not have the numbers for majority and Shiv Sena does not want to sit in the Opposition," he said. "We see the Sena-BJP government running its full term and even if it does not, Congress is not going to benefit at all," Bhandari said.