Fierce political battles ahead
With the possibility of general elections taking place sooner than expected, the recent spate of scams and venality is giving many politicos sleepless nights. No party can rest easy, as it’s not just Congress that’s in trouble over corruption charges –NCP, BJP, SP, BSP and DMK too have problems of their own.
In the state, while Congress and NCP are concerned over allegations against their prominent leaders, BJP and Shiv Sena too have been maintaining perceptible silence. Except Kirit Somaiya, no voice from the Opposition is audible on scams and involvement of ruling party leaders. That’s perhaps because of the fact that a few faces from these parties too have been tarnished in corruption related to Adarsh Society, coalgate, irrigation and PWD.
On Friday, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar chaired a meeting of his party’s core group at union minister Praful Patel’s residence in Mumbai. The sole agenda before the leaders was to figure out what strategy the party should adopt with many of its netas facing allegations of scams and attempts by Congress to corner them on the issue.
From NCP, big names such as deputy CM Ajit Pawar, PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, food & civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh, minister of state Gulabrao Deokar are facing the heat.
Praful Patel is not in the clear either after a recent CAG report panned the civil aviation ministry, once headed by him.
NCP in general — and Ajit Pawar in particular — is not happy with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan announcing a white paper on irrigation as the department was with Pawar junior for most of the time between 1999 and 2009.
Pawar’s trusted lieutenant Sunil Tatkare is facing a number of charges over dubious companies floated in which his son and daughter are officiating as directors. Senior NCP man Bhujbal has been kept busy taking on criticism over the affairs of Mumbai Education Trust and contracts allotted under build-operate-transfer (BOT) for redevelopment of prime government properties.
The Congress unit too is worried after some of its leaders found their names embroiled in coalgate. The party is also irked by NCP’s latest attempts to outmanoeuvre it. Recently, Congressmen were stunned to see NCP challenge chief minister Prithviraj Chavan over the inauguration of a regional cancer hospital and research centre at Aurangabad. The CM had consented to grace the inauguration on October 5, but NCP chose to carry out the unveiling on September 21 itself.
School education minister Rajendra Darda and his MP brother Vijay — both from Congress — have their names in a CBI FIR on coalgate. Sources say the papers to include Rajendra Darda’s name in the FIR were swiftly moved and approved by the CM.
It is expected that in the near future, NCP would target Congress by digging up muck of corruption from the grand old party’s backyard. Departments held by Congress such as revenue, women and child welfare, social justice, cooperative, and housing are on the ally’s radar.
If current developments within the ruling coalition are any indication, both parties have decided to take each other on publicly.
Sources say NCP has directed its MLAs and ministers to claim credit of various schemes and projects launched by the government.
Also local units have been asked to perform inaugurations and groundbreaking ceremonies in presence of party ministers only. This has created problems for the state bureaucracy, as officials have been getting different orders from Congress and NCP.
On the other hand Opposition parties BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS have made few attempts to take advantage of the situation. In fact they seem happy being in Opposition. Senior leaders have chosen to speak on inflation but not on scams. They would be wrong in presuming that people from the state have failed to notice this.
— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY