BJP shifts monsoon session to Nagpur

Jun 02, 2018, 08:08 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Government cites inability to accommodate lawmakers in Mumbai; sources hint at political considerations behind move

Devendra Fadnavis
Devendra Fadnavis

The BJP has taken yet another decision that the Shiv Sena is opposed to. In a first-of-its-kind move, the state government has shifted the monsoon session of the Maharashtra Legislature to Nagpur, from Mumbai. The three-week jamboree will start on July 4. In fact, it was a foregone conclusion that the session would go to the state's second capital, as the government staff had been told to book their travel to Nagpur even before the official clearance came from the Governor House late Thursday.

The BJP government led by Devendra Fadnavis had made its intention to move clear during the winter session in Nagpur and it reaffirmed the possibility when the presiding officers of both houses had closed the Budget Session with the declaration that the next session would start on July 4, without mentioning the venue. Meanwhile, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his party colleagues repeatedly opposed the idea, saying that there was no point in taking the sarkar to Nagpur. Instead, we should take development to the region, they said. In between, Fadnavis appointed a three-member committee to decide the issue. Finally, the committee favoured the shift and Sena ministers who are part of the government, too, endorsed the decision.

What's the real reason?
The government has been saying that it would not be able to provide accommodation to all legislators in Mumbai because Majestic Hostel, one of the residential schemes for law makers, had already been closed and Manora, the second one, would be demolished to making way for the new complex. The third hostel – Akashwani – continues to accommodate some legislators, but cannot make space for all. However, the Manora redevelopment still hangs in the balance, and no legislator has been asked to vacate. Sources said the matter has landed in dispute because multiple state agencies were interested in the redevelopment plan and overruling them, Fadnavis decided to hand over the project to a Central agency. Attempts were made to find alternative accommodation on rent for the legislators, but there were no bidders for the proposal. So, the government has decided to give each legislator a fixed allowance to rent a place for himself/herself. Nagpur, meanwhile, has adequate rooms in its MLA Hostel.

Political considerations
Sources said other than accommodation woes, political reasons were a guiding force behind the decision. A leader said if the Parliamentary election is advanced by six months and the Maharashtra assembly poll, too, is clubbed with it, then the winter session in Nagpur would have no significance in terms of policy matters. Another thought that a senior leader shared with mid-day was that the BJP wanted to woo Vidarbha where the party has not been able to fulfil a promise of separate statehood.

With a monsoon session happening in Nagpur, some populist development decisions could be passed with monetary allocations. "This will give us the time to implement decisions ahead of next year's general and assembly elections, if held as scheduled in April-May and November respectively, or even otherwise," he said. He said when the winter session in December takes Vidarbha-specific decisions, it leaves little time before the financial year ends in March. One more reason that it is being discussed by the Opposition is that the BJP wants to ensure minimum participation of peasants in the protest rallies that are taken to the session in Nagpur. "The monsoon, being sowing season, the farmers-turned-political activists may turn their backs to protest calls," said a Congress leader.

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