If a former chief minister of Maharashtra is to be believed, he and many others in the Congress had not imagined in their wildest dreams that they would have to take to the streets. Last week, we saw Congress leaders leaving their ultra-luxurious comforts, supposedly for fighting a battle against BJP’s apathy towards farmers and alleged corruption in the governments. With chilled bottled water at their disposal, senior leaders accompanied equally tired party workers on foot. Some innovative leaders escaped a humid walkathon by riding bullock carts to the offices of the respective district collectors across the state to submit their charter of demand. And, certain leaders from places like Nagpur did not care to respond to the protest call against corruption, an idea by state Congress president and ex-CM Ashok Chavan, who has been given a clean chit by the Congress in the Adarsh housing scam.
Having shouted their lungs out there on streets and on social media - which saw inappropriate allegations accompanied by an old picture of the CM’s family claiming that Fadnavis and his family spent taxpayers’ money on a US holiday even while distressed farmers committed suicide - the Congress has a legitimate tool for putting the BJP on the mat in the Monsoon session of the state legislature, which begins today in Mumbai.
Will the Congress pull it off? Will the Nationalist Congress Party, which has shied away from establishing itself as opposition, allegedly because of its tacit understanding with BJP, extend support to the Congress? Will the Shiv Sena, which derives pleasure from the BJP’s troubles, help the opposition? The proceedings of the legislature, and more significantly, the machinations beyond the four walls of the House will surely provide answers to these questions. This time the Congress will be subjected to intense questioning because it has raised the pitch against the BJP, and, hence, people expect it to prove the allegations with strong proof.
So far, the Congress’ preparedness in exposing wrongdoing, if any, by the BJP, appears weak. The other day, the party struggled for answers when asked whether it had lodged a complaint with the police or the food and drugs department against the suppliers of adulterated chikki. Apparently it had not done so, and, yet, went on posting pictures on social media of school kids with the adulterated sweet, unmindful of the fact that such evidence does not stand legal scrutiny. The Congress will have to answer as to why its ministers, too, were involved in similar purchases and protected contractors who were in the business then and are dealing with the present government as well.
From today, the focus will shift to the opposition leader in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who is traditionally accused of having a soft corner for the BJP. He had to reject CM Devendra Fadnavis’ invitation to join him for the official tour to the US when party boss Chavan chided him for accepting the invitation in the first place. The rap seems to have worked. Patil has now threatened to ‘expose’ the BJP further with videotapes of sting operations of three BJP ministers, during the session.
The NCP, as usual, is up to some tricks. It did speak initially against Women And Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Munde, but has maintained a studied silence thereafter. The explanation given is that since the party doesn’t want it to appear as a feud in the Munde family, it has restrained Pankaja’s estranged cousin, Dhananjay, who is opposition leader in the Upper House, from intensifying the charge.
Instead, NCP boss Sharad Pawar has focussed his energies on triggering a break-up between the BJP and Sena. He wants the Sena to dig into its self-esteem and quit the government if the BJP is too corrupt and difficult to co-habit with. Pawar has a bigger target set; he expects the Sena to cause a mid-term Assembly poll.
On the government front, Fadnavis has carried the last two legislative sessions solely on his shoulders. He frequently rescued novice ministers when they struggled during heated debates, and skirted uncomfortable issues by using his parliamentary experience. This time, he will have his task cut out if the Congress walks the talk.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day