Storm brewing ahead of the Monsoon session
Sleeves have been rolled up, nostrils flared, and teeth are grinding against each other over what is expected to be another embarrassing defeat for the Congress and NCP parties, this time in the state assembly elections. The hunt for scapegoats and alternatives in leadership is on with equal desperation in the Democratic Front alliance, as the Monsoon session of the state legislature starts today — the last for the incumbent state government.
Ever since the Lok Sabha results came out, the chaos in the Democratic Front has been inexorably on the rise. The ruling side has been plunged into a state of such anarchy and confusion that it even forgot to arrange for the coordination committee meeting recently.
No formal meeting took place between the Congress and NCP to assess the factors that let their shocking defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, and what must be done to reclaim their ascendancy. The Congress leadership hasn’t bothered to offer a clear message to its party cadres or to its ally the NCP, leaving leaders and legislators directionless at a chaotic time.
Sensing that a storm is brewing ahead of the Monsoon session, state chief secretary J S Saharia recently issued an important directive to departmental secretaries, asking them to be present without fail at Mantralaya once the session is underway. No officer should leave the city without his consent, he said, and should be ready to tackle any issue that the sessions at the state legislature throw up — the secretaries should remain present in the officers’ gallery at Vidhan Bhavan whenever the sessions are on. Similar directives were unheard of in the past, said babus.
The present circumstances are particularly challenging for CM Prithviraj Chavan and his cabinet colleagues, as demands by legislators will rise, in the run-up to the assembly elections. Legislators in the anti-Chavan camp are ready to corner him over pending development works for which financial provisions are yet to be made. Demands for reservation are on the rise from a cross-section of the Maratha community, particularly vocal ones coming from the Lingayats and Dhangars.
The state coffers are too dry to allow for the funding of demands made out of turn and projects that are not a part of the annual budget. The state government was left red-faced after failing to make good on its promise of making food grains available at concessional rates to families above poverty line (APL) — after announcing it to gain ground before Lok Sabha elections. No relief has been paid yet to farmers whose crops were damaged in the unseasonal hailstorms. These factors are being cited as the primary reason for the drubbing that the Congress received in the state in the Lok Sabha elections.
Chavan’s squeaky-clean image amidst a bunch of tarnished politicians did not help the party, but neither did Ajit Pawar’s aggression, and legislators attribute it to their utter lack of performance. Chavan has just a few months in which to dole out the R10 crore that was promised to several ruling party MLAs and MPs. Significantly, state departments were asked to approve development projects recommended by the legislators and MPs, so that they could directly claim credit for the feats. But, administrative hurdles prevented the flow of money, offering little to MPs.
Apart from other grievances, the failure to fill up vacancies in the state cabinet may also cost the alliance. Vacancies at state-run boards and enterprises have been pending for the past four years. Now, it appears, not many are interested in the once-coveted positions, having realised that it will not improve their electoral prospects.
Amidst all this chaos comes the sensational inquiry report of the Maharashtra state apex cooperative bank, which has the potential to disturb the electoral prospects of top ranking leaders. The report implies that the director board (a majority of them from NCP and Congress) has, over the years, engaged in disbursal of loans to sick or unviable cooperative units run by prominent leaders. The inquiry report reveals details of losses to the bank and recovery of funds from the director board, which include big names like Ajit Pawar and a host of MPs and MLAs.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day