BJP may cause problems for NCP, Congress with white paper on economy

Updated: Dec 04, 2014, 10:30 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh |

The white paper, announced by the governor on Wednesday, will delve deep into the state’s finances and examine the debt of more than R3 lakh crore that Maharashtra is saddled with, leaving very little money for developmental works

With the governor’s announcement of a white paper on the state’s financial situation on Wednesday, the BJP has, in one swoop, laid to rest speculation over differences in the party on the issue and also robbed rumours of the government going easy on the NCP of some credibility. 

Time to extract pound of flesh? The NCP will come under the scanner as the finance and planning department was handled by the party. FILE PIC

While addressing the joint session of the state legislature on Wednesday, shortly after the heckling that led to the suspension of five Congress MLAs, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao announced the white paper on the state’s financial condition, liabilities and future course of action along with measures on transparency in expenditure and efficiency, signalling the BJP government’s intention to delve deep into the condition the previous government had left the state’s finances in.

Last week, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar had said that the government would draw up a white paper on the state’s finances but when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was asked about this, he had said that a status report would be issued as a white paper could harm the state’s reputation, just like the one on irrigation had. This was seen as a sign of differences within the BJP. Speaking to mid-day later, Mungantiwar had claimed that the CM had not known about his statement on the white paper when he was asked about it by mediapersons.

The governor’s announcement lent credence to Mungantiwar’s statement and sources told mid-day that a prolonged debate in a state cabinet meeting on November 5, while approving the draft of the governor’s speech, had led to the decision on the white paper. They said members of the BJP government were firm on the decision as they felt the current financial position of the state was horrible and was leaving very little money for developmental works.

Of the state’s loan burden of more than R3 lakh crore, R97,000 crore was raised during the last five years alone.

When departments were asked for the details of its utilisation, no specific data was available, ministers were heard saying. What this means is that the amount raised every year was used for repayment of the earlier principal amount as well as the interest accrued on it, a cabinet member is believed to have said.

Trouble brewing
The mere mention of a white paper caused a furore in political circles, especially within the NCP, as the backlash following the white paper on irrigation is still fresh in the minds of party leaders. Just like the irrigation department was with the NCP between 1999 and 2014, so was the finance and planning department.

According to political sources, it was obvious that the onus will be on the NCP to clarify any negative facts that may come to light in the white paper, which is also likely to cause trouble for the Congress.

They said the BJP wants to nail the Congress and NCP as both the parties had — soon after coming to power in 1999 —issued a white paper on the state’s finances when the amount of loan outstanding under the previous Sena-BJP government had been R38,000 crore.

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