On the eve of the first anniversary of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi, ally Congress cautioned partners Shiv Sena and NCP against treading on each other’s toes during elections while expressing confidence in the alliance.
Speaking to The Indian Express, state Congress president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said, “While every party has the right to expand, all of us also have the responsibility to the ensure that the BJP does not gain ground. I see no problem in the continuation of this alliance for a full five years, but during elections, we must take steps carefully and make sure that we do not take extreme stances against each other.”
Thorat’s remarks assume significance at a time when the Congress itself seems divided on contesting the 2022 BMC elections as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi. With both Shiv Sena and BJP already sounding the bugle, the Mumbai civic body elections, along with simultaneous elections in nine other municipal corporations, are being seen as mini Assembly polls.
While it shares power with Sena in the state, the Congress leads the Opposition in the Sena-controlled BMC. Congress’ Leader of Opposition in the BMC, Ravi Raja, had earlier this week announced that the party was gearing up to contest all the 227 seats in the 2022 elections.
Contending that the government’s biggest achievement over the past year was that it had successfully kept the BJP at bay, Thorat, however, said: “We (the alliance partners) will sit together to come to a consensus on the issue (local polls).”
He added, “We will take a decision at the right time.”
Amid reports of friction between the allies, Thorat stressed on maintaining an effective dialogue as the way forward. Praising Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, he said, “He takes everyone along.” Rebutting claims of fresh friction among the allies over budgets and funding, Thorat added, “There are disagreement even in a single party governments. The important thing is whenever such issues are raised, they are resolved.”
At least a couple of Congress ministers are believed to have complained about the lack of funds allotted to their departments. But Thorat argued, “Every minister wants more funds to run the department and showcase work. It is only natural. But we must consider that the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown have limited our resources. The damage suffered due to cyclonic storms and floods have further strained the state exchequer.”
He also contradicted senior Congress minister Ashok Chavan over the power bill subsidy controversy. Chavan had on Thursday taken on Energy Minister Nitin Raut, also from the Congress, saying that he should have desisted from any announcements before consultations with the Cabinet. Raut had in August announced the state’s plan to offer subsidy in power bills during April, May and June for residential consumers, but had beaten a retreat earlier this month arguing that the financial health of the state’s power discom was not sound.
“Ashok Chavan perhaps was not aware. But the proposal was discussed in the Cabinet. Everyone (allies) had agreed on the sentiment that households facing financial strain due to the lockdown must be helped. The Cabinet had even discussed the expenditure for the proposal. It was only after learning that the discussions were positive that Raut had made a public announcement,” Thorat said.
“But the natural calamities (cyclone, floods, unseasonal rain) that followed put a further strain on the exchequer. Floods and unseasonal rain led to massive crop damages. The state had to dole out a package of Rs 10,000 crore. The pandemic limited our resources while the expenditure rose,” he added. “We have not given up on the proposal yet,” Thorat said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines