Winter Session: Confusion over targets and point men

Ravikiran DeshmukhTHE Winter Session of the state legislature is all set to start in Nagpur today, and expectations are high as the state is passing through a most turbulent phase. People are looking to their representatives to take up issues plaguing the state at a time when very few sectors have remained untouched by the disease of mismanagement and misappropriation.

In the current atmosphere of suspicion and corruption, there is no guarantee the new industrial policy — a crucial issue for the development of the state — will be announced.

The state is already weighed down heavily by a debt burden that was Rs 2.31 lakh crore till the end of October and which is likely to grow to Rs 2.70 lakh crore by the end of this financial year. There are no funds for development works; ongoing works are mostly being facilitated by private participation or funds provided by financial institutions.

The opposition parties — BJP, Shiv Sena, MNS, Peasants and Workers Party, Samajwadi Party — are expected to take the Congress-NCP coalition government to task, but they their strategies are being worked out independently, without any consultations. There is little clarity on what the targets will be and who will lead the charge.

This was evident when four senior BJP leaders announced their agenda on the irrigation sector unilaterally. Similarly, the Shiv Sena moved a notice of no-confidence motion without taking its ally BJP into confidence. The MNS agenda is still not known. The strength of the PWP and the Samajwadi Party is miniscule in the legislature.

Most issues that are likely to figure in the legislature are already known, such as the alleged irrigation scams and the white paper giving a clean chit to people accused of misdeeds. Also, a long list of issues from PWD, Women & Child Development, Home and a few other departments are awaiting debate.

A commotion in the house is expected on such issues and the regular business before the house may be affected for at least a few days.

It has been seen that the opposition fails to put up a joint effort to force the government into mending its ways. Still, it will be interesting to see how the opposition parties attack the government and how Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Home Minister R R Patil, Women and Child Development Minister Varsha Gaikwad defend themselves.

The ruling Congress and NCP have already started digging up the misdeeds of the Shiv Sena and the BJP from the 1995-99 period. The BJP will have to face questions on how fat estimates of irrigation projects were approved during its rule. Former BJP irrigation ministers Gopinath Munde, Mahadev Shivankar and Eknath Khadse could figure in the list of targets. In this scenario, current issues will certainly take a backseat.

To tame the Sena, the Congress is geared up to table the Comptroller and Auditor General report on the BMC. The report speaks about wrongful allotment of road works worth Rs 702.31 crore to contractors by ignoring provisions under the BMC Act, 1888. It also goes into the BMC property department’s failure to recover Rs 45.45 crore in the re-development cases.

Right now, the Sena appears to be most concerned about erecting a memorial to Bal Thackeray and might take a confrontationist stand against the Congress-led government to achieve its goal. In the melee, genuine issues such as how the government allowed Thackeray’s cremation at Shivaji Park may not be discussed. Ditto the Palghar Facebook issue and freedom of speech.

CM Prithviraj Chavan may not be targeted by the Opposition, except when it comes to his role in the white paper and the clean chit to Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and the people responsible for the irrigation mess.

With the opposition a divided house and the NCP busy fighting controversies, Chavan’s image has emerged as the only saving grace for the state. But the cacophony of scams is such that a few good things done by this government are easily forgotten. The CM recently said that his priority for Mumbai would be public transport, drinking water and affordable housing. These issues need a public debate. Let us hope the august houses fulfil people’s expectations during the session.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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