With several key municipal corporations in Maharashtra, including the Mumbai civic body, headed for polls in 2017, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said the Modi wave has started to recede, compared to its peak, and wheels of change are already in motion.
Lashing out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led governments at the state and the Centre, the NCP supremo said governments are all about advertising, and likened it to a nicely packed box of mangoes.
“Buyers see the first two three rows and the mangoes look really good, juicy. They buy the whole box and get it home only to find that inside they are all rotten,” Pawar said on the 17th anniversary of his party before an auditorium full of party volunteers at Shanmukhananda in Sion. He said the election results in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry and Bihar strongly demonstrate that people don’t have faith in the ‘Modi effect’ anymore.
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“Except for Assam, BJP had almost no electoral gains in any other state. Even in Assam, Congress was in power for 15 years and people thought they should look for a change, so the BJP benefitted. Otherwise, the Modi wave is slipping, receding all over,” Pawar said, adding that somewhere the BJP realises this, and is trying a different tune of politics based on religion and caste.
He severely criticised the Maharashtra government on its affordable housing programme saying nearly 23,000 houses originally built to house slum dwellers from around the airport are now lying vacant, while several in Mumbai don’t have formal housing.
While galvanising the party’s foot soldiers in the city less than eight months before civic polls, Pawar directed the Mumbai cadre to immediately meet the chief minister and find a solution to allot the 23,000 vacant houses to the homeless. If that fails, he said NCP leaders should by force give possession of these houses to those who don’t have homes.
“There are demolition drives around the city, but the 23,000 houses continue to be vacant. If nothing happens despite discussions with the chief minister and the government, NCP leaders should take homeless people and give them the possession of these houses. I am saying this with all seriousness. We must and must do this,” Pawar said.
Totally wiped out of Mumbai after the Lok Sabha and assembly polls, when the party could not win even a single seat
in the city, the beleaguered NCP has been trying to make a comeback with a strong performance in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.
The party had earlier offered outside support to the BJP in Maharashtra to form the government, with the two parties having also come together to elect the legislative council chairman.
Pawar, a former agriculture minister, censured the Union and state government’s handling of the drought in Maharashtra, saying he had warned the prime minister of an impending crisis last year itself, but yet to measures were taken.
“Marathwada was the worst affected. The Indian Railways had to deliver water to Latur, and the only thing that the government did was praise itself about it and advertise it. But there was a larger question of people’s food, income, education. Neither the Union government nor the state government did anything about it,” Pawar said. He added that it was NCP, which through its welfare trust proactively provided Rs 15,000 for every family where a farmer has committed suicide.