The Budget Session of the Maharashtra legislature from Wednesday is set to be stormy as the ruling BJP locks horns with a united Opposition that appears to be in no mood to cooperate.
Unlike the previous sessions of the state legislature, the two main Opposition parties — the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — have decided to work in tandem to attack the government on farmer suicides and the agrarian crisis, corruption allegations against BJP ministers, and what they say is the deteriorating law and order situation in Maharashtra.
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And if a meeting of Opposition parties held on Tuesday is an indication, the Congress-NCP have also managed to gather support from all other smaller Opposition parties.
The Budget, to be presented on March 18, itself will be a tightrope walk for the Devendra Fadnavis government that has failed to keep the revenue and fiscal deficit numbers under check in 2015-16.
Leaders of all Opposition parties boycotted the Chief Minister’s customary tea party on Tuesday, accusing the government of being insensitive to farmer suicides and the agrarian crisis.
“The government is deliberately underplaying the severity of the drought crisis as it does not want to spend on drought relief. They have mismanaged the state economy and now they want to deny distressed farmers their due relief,” alleged NCP’s Dhananjay Munde, Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, in which the Opposition has more members than the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.
Congress legislator Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who leads the Opposition in the legislative Assembly, was equally critical. “The government has failed miserably in helping out farmers in distress. The urgency shown by the BJP to facilitate the lifting of dance bar ban and in the Make In India initiatives is missing when it comes to farmer welfare,” he said.
Vikhe Patil even criticised the visit of state cabinet ministers to drought-hit areas on March 4. “We still haven’t understood what the government wanted to achieve from this hastily planned drought tourism,” the leader said, alleging that the announcements the CM made after the last’s week tour had nothing new in them.
While the ruling alliance has plans to promote the achievement of the Jalyukt Shivar initiative to stymie the Opposition’s charge, the latter has plans to isolate the government on its failure to control water and fodder scarcity problems. It also plans to exploit the Devendra Fadnavis government making several U-turns on policy matters.
“Our demand is that the government bring out a white paper in the current session on how many decisions and government resolutions brought out by it have been reversed,” Vikhe-Patil said.
Munde, meanwhile, dubbed the Fadnavis government a ‘jugglery’ government, accusing it of being manipulative. Munde has also demanded a white paper on the Rs 8 lakh crore investment MoUs entered by the Maharashtra government during the Make In India week. “The investment claim is a farce,” he alleged.
The Opposition is also planning to corner the government on corruption allegations and controversies involving some of its senior ministers, such as Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde, Vishnu Sawara, and Girish Bapat (all BJP). It has also attempted to drive a wedge between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, with the Congress asking the latter to move out of the government over the ‘insensitiveness’ shown by the BJP towards farmers. A demand that the BJP disband the Shiv Sena-controlled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) over corruption in road and drain contracts and the latest controversy over solid waste management will also be raised during the session.
The Chief Minister himself could face a litmus test with the Opposition aiming to target him over the deteriorating law and order situation and the controversies over the dance bar issue and manhandling of a cop in Latur by a fringe Hindutva outfit.
Members of the ruling alliance said that their floor management would include targeting the Opposition on corruption of the previous regime.