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The success and failures of Prithviraj Chavan

Nobody from the Congress and NCP had imagined that they would be handed such a defeat in the Lok Sabha elections; its reverberations have become perpetual nightmares for both the parties.

Both the Congress and the NCP, partners in government for the last 15 years, are yet to sit together to discuss future strategies, barring a few meetings between NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress bigwigs Ahmed Patel and A K Antony.

But, at the state level, probably for the first time, no joint meeting of the two parties took place during the recently concluded monsoon session of the state legislature — the last of the present assembly. Logically, such a meeting was essential, in view of the upcoming assembly elections, to chalk out a plan to seek votes on the basis of the state government’s performance.

Forget the joint meeting, party members didn’t even meet among their own organisations. Legislators missed the opportunity to air their views on the government and issues of alliance politics. This implies the senior leadership at the state level did not have the desire or the decisiveness to face their fellow colleagues.

The only development of note was that the Congress leaders had a one-to-one meeting with CM Prithviraj Chavan during the session. Party men said the exercise, which offered 15-20 minutes of interaction to each MLA, took place at the behest of the party’s central leadership after many complaints were made to Delhi.

During the meetings Chavan discussed pending issues related to constituencies, projects to be speeded up and strength and weaknesses of rival parties — BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS. It went off quietly and smoothly. But, at the same time, senior cabinet colleagues of Chavan, such as Narayan Rane, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Balasaheb Thorat were making trips to Delhi to discuss state issues with central leaders.

While Rane’s displeasure on the working style of Chavan is known, the purposes of Patil and Thorat are not known. At the NCP camp, restlessness increased as some crucial plans and proposals, important before facing elections, were stuck with the CM.

The party did many things to convince, coax and threaten Prithviraj Chavan, but nothing worked. Finally, the NCP took the issue to the Congress leadership and a few meetings between the top brass followed, without any clarity on what exactly transpired and how things were going to change in the state’s interest.

If reports regarding the CM’s chair were anything to go by, one would wonder what exactly is wrong with the CM and why he is being opposed so. It is purely because those working against him have not been able to make public their grouse.

The NCP has not gone beyond certain issues such as an early decision on reservation for the Maratha community, scrapping of local body tax and policy on illegal constructions etc. Congress MLAs, too, have raised similar issues. But, no one among them is ready to ask the real, loaded questions.

The CM’s defence, according to people close to him, is that the complainants have personal agendas and are looking for favours, and most do not fit into the rulebooks. Despite repeated complaints, Chavan has stayed put only due to his capacity to convince his party bosses about his views, else he would have lost the post long ago. Those who genuinely want to put him on the mat on issues of public interest can question why the much-talked- about water transport project on the west and east coast has not been cleared even after two years of tendering process.

What has gone wrong with Worli-Haji Ali and Versova-Bandra sea links? MSRDC has been raising these issues time and again without much success. Besides that, maladies in the CM-led MMRDA have been pointed out by Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) saying that many projects with inflated costs have remained incomplete for years. CAG also speaks about wayward changes in MMRDA projects.

Additionally, many decisions in the housing sector a revised policy on cluster development, affordable homes, management of urban centres, etc have remained on paper. Furthermore, despite decisions having been taken at the highest level, the CM has failed to implement changes in market committee laws to allow direct sale of fruits and vegetables; he has also not appointed a Lokayukta as per the Lokpal Act approved by the Centre last year. His political detractors can easily corner him on such issues, but they appear to have their own agendas to pursue.

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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