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The year that will be

Year 2011 ended with the usual niggling worries. While, the state's economy continues to bleed as expenses to usher in overall development escalate, the ruling political parties as well as the Opposition appear busy drafting their own strategies, which will help them secure victory in the upcoming polls to local and civic bodies.

The year 2011 ended on a high note for the NCP, which had a definite edge over the Congress in the recently held municipal council polls. Now, the Sharad Pawar-led party has its eyes on the polls to municipal corporations across the state, including BMC and other local bodies. The results of these speedily approaching polls will give us a good sense of what to expect in 2014.

No matter how successful the Congress-NCP coalition may be, it has certainly not been successful in setting the state in the path of progress. As everybody knows, Maharashtra has not been able to maintain its preeminent position in the crucial sectors of industrial investment and agriculture.

If there is truth in numbers, the government has been able to mop up just 42 per cent of the projected revenue income in the first six months of the current financial year (2011-2012). The revenue deficit is a staggering Rs 853 crore, almost 14 times the projected deficit of Rs 58 crore calculated for the year.

It's also common knowledge that decline in revenue generation would ultimately take a serious toll on the state-sponsored development projects, one of them being the recently announced ambitious Rs 2,000 crore package for various agricultural products.

On the political front, the undeniable weakness of the Opposition has proved lucky for both the NCP and the Congress, helping them hold on, however tenuously, to the reins of power for the third consecutive term, despite repeated gaffes.

In 2012, the CM will have to tackle the NCP, which has been aggressively promoting itself. The party, under the leadership of Ajit Pawar, is busy making inroads into the state's political scenario. It may not be surprising if it decides to go solo in the 2014 general elections. Though all the major policy decisions are taken at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi, it is CM Chavan who will have to take on the challenge in Mumbai.

The ruling Democratic Front government has certainly managed to disturb even the most placid and well-established sectors. It has neglected the flourishing agriculture sector. It has not even been able to reconstitute the state-level Agricultural and Research Council, which supervises administration in agriculture universities. Its Executive President Vijay Kolte, an NCP man, is still holding the fort, even though his term expired three years ago.

Many of the posts in the agriculture universities lie vacant, as the state government chooses to ignore the fact that the industrial investment and agriculture sectors can positively boost the state economy.  Another body that has suffered the state's negligence is the State Planning Board, which has gradually become dysfunctional in the absence of six members from various sectors.

For the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in the Opposition, the present picture offers nothing. The Sena will find it difficult to retain its supremacy in the BMC, as Deputy CM Ajit Pawar is ready to hold on to the troubled alliance with the Congress, just to unseat the saffron alliance. Significantly, the Sena is fast losing its base in the Konkan region, with many prominent leaders from Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts deciding to slink into the NCP ranks. 

The BJP has not been able to improve its performance even though it has been the principle Opposition party in the state legislature. Its senior leader Gopinath Munde received a major setback with his nephew Dhananjay deciding to part ways with him, and chose to cross over to the NCP-Congress combine in the Parli civic body.

While 2012 will be an acid test for the Sena, it is the BJP which has to attempt an image makeover, with the planned reshuffle at the state level. If they fail to recover their fortunes, then the Raj Thackeray-led MNS is certainly going to gain ground in the race to becoming the most favoured party in the Opposition. After all, his is the only feasible alternative to the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, even at the BMC.

Having said that, it is surprising that Raj Thackeray has not preferred to go beyond the Mumbai-Thane-Nashik-Pune belt. He has, for reasons best known to him, confined himself to a handful of issues, which he picks at leisure. Even the MNS cadre in parts of Konkan, Marathwada and Vidarbha appears to be a confused lot, with no strong agenda to pursue at the local level.

In 2012, we can hope that the party takes more interest in issues that affect not just the Marathi, but the common man, no matter what section of the nation he hails from.

The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY

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