Will MNS make the monsoon session count?

Beginning in the backdrop of the massive blaze that gutted top floors of Mantralaya and the CBI chargesheet against former chief minister Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing scam, the monsoon session of the state legislature is expected to companion a cloudburst of opposition ire for the Democratic Front government. Citizens will count on the opposition questioning Congress-NCP regarding responsibility of the fire that transformed documents and files of vital importance into ashes, besides putting an additional burden of a few crores on the exchequer that’ll be spent on repairs. Another pertinent question would be on the need for the state to oppose the CBI inquiry into the Adarsh scam now when 18 months have passed since the investigative agency registered an FIR in the case.

Apart from these, another citizen-centric issue that has cropped up is the collection of toll on certain roads when travel on safe and pothole-free streets continues to remain a distant dream. Approximately a month ago when Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) decided to focus on it, hopes naturally went high that the issue would reach its logical end. However, there appears to be a complete silence on the matter now with a few reports on private news channels of vehicles of MNS workers being allowed ‘hassle-free’ travel at toll nakas.

When asked about the status of the agitation against the toll, an influential MNS leader said data on the number of vehicles passing through each naka was being put together and it will soon be presented to the chief minister for further action. But since when, one may ask, did the MNS start expounding its findings to the government? The party strongly believes in exposing any wrongdoing by the government in front of the public, and its supremo is known for his free and fearless talk with readymade solutions on issues he raises.

MNS certainly hoisted public expectations when it started taking up core issues at BMC and the state. Citizens have expectations of MNS mainly because of its approach towards problems and potential to offer quick results. It has been relatively simple for MNS to climb the popularity charts when both Shiv Sena and BJP – the principal opposition parties of the state – have failed miserably to garner support due to sheer lack of public confidence on them. Their tally of seats in the state assembly is dwindling with each election. The void created was a big opportunity for the MNS to grow in stature.

But MNS is taking its own time to rise to the expectations. The famous quote by Raj that his party MLAs will show what a responsible opposition is, remains fresh in public memory. People are hoping for things to happen. Raj’s verbal duel with deputy Cm Ajit Pawar is remembered by many. But, when the MNS chief said his party was ready to share details of wrongdoings of Pawar junior with social crusader Anna Hazare to expose it, public reaction was that who prevented Raj and his party MLAs from raising it in the state legislature. Assurances followed and people are still waiting.

A few months ago, when rest of the opposition was unwilling to raise its voice over the Supreme Court judgment in Film City land allotment to Whistling Woods International, the MNS cadre said it was preparing to take the government to task. But, a simple meeting between Subhash Ghai and Raj Thackeray silenced the guns of the aggressive leaders.

However, recently, MNS has been quite aggressive on purchases made by BMC for schools. Its corporators have been questioning rates of items distributed free to students among other things. It’s no longer a secret that cartels of contractors, be it in supply or road construction and repairs, rule BMC and anyone who is in the saddle simply follows their diktats. The rates offered to BMC are always high, much higher than in the market, but the quality of works and supply of articles is abysmally poor, which is certainly not appropriate for a city that aspires to be a world class one.
Crores of rupees that the citizens offer to BMC go down the drains. A cursory glance at the quality of roads, and schoolbags, umbrellas, uniforms given for free to students reveals the sham. Purchases made for BMC hospitals have also been a serious concern, which came to light recently during discussions on MRI machine acquisition for two BMC-run hospitals. It will be interesting if MNS manages to take the ruling parties on over all such issues.

All said and done, Raj Thackeray has said in the past that he has his eyes set on the 2014 elections. So let’s hope for a miracle.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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