Almost a week after its leaders expressed displeasure over not being consulted in key decisions and meetings of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has reached out to the Congress. While he is yet to hold a one-on-one meeting with senior Congress ministers for resolving contentious issues, Thackeray, on Wednesday, deputed a trusted emissary to pacify the camp.
Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai, a personal confidante of Thackeray, met Congress’s state president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat at the latter’s official residence in south Mumbai. The meeting, which went on for 30 minutes, saw the duo hold discussions over Congress’s grievances.
Following the meeting, Thorat said, “He (Desai) had come to get information about some of the issue we have been raising. A meeting with the CM could not take place in the past two days due to a tragedy in the Thackeray family. It will happen soon.”
Desai had apparently come with a message from Thackeray that he will soon hold an interaction with the Congress ministers.
Amid growing unease in the party over being relegated to playing third fiddle in the government, the Congress leadership had earlier asked Thorat and state Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan, a former CM, to hold talks with Thackeray.
On June 11, following a meeting of party ministers, Thorat had first opened up about the fault lines with the Thackeray-led coalition. Later, in an interview to The Indian Express, Chavan had also come out on how there was a growing feeling among senior ministers of the party that their issues were not being heard or addressed.
Alleging that a section of the bureaucracy was trying to engineer a rift in the coalition, Chavan also spoke on the need for Thackeray to rein them in. Sounding off the Shiv Sena and the NCP, he had said the Congress’s aim to keep the BJP at bay should not be treated as the party’s weakness.
An editorial on Tuesday in Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana where the Congress was compared to an “old, creaking cot” has further frayed the Congress’s nerves, even as Thorat made it clear that the party was “firmly” in the MVA, but reiterated that it has unresolved grievances, related to the public interest, that it wants to discuss with the CM.
The Congress with 12 ministers (10 cabinet, two MoS rank) in the 43-man Thackeray government has upped the ante just ahead of the nominations to 12 seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, 10 of which fell vacant on June 6 and another two that will be vacated on June 15.
While the Congress is demanding equal distribution of the MLC seats among the three parties, the Sena wants the distribution to take place on the basis of the Assembly seats won by each party. The Sena has 56 seats, the NCP 54 and the Congress has 44 seats in the state Assembly. The Shiv Sena also claims to have the backing of at least eight independent MLAs.
The Congress camp has also complained that some of its ministers were not being actively consulted on policy decisions pertaining to even their own departments, while also raising a voice against the unequal distribution of development funds among constituencies represented by the three parties. The party also wants a NYAY-like scheme in Maharashtra for financial aid to the Covid-19 hit poor families.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Youth Congress has announced that it will distribute kits containing food grains and relief material to unorganised labourers across the state, make arrangements to facilitate the issuing of job cards under Maharashtra Gandhi Employment Generation Scheme (MREGS) to those eligible, and honour coronavirus-warriors across the state as part of a week-long ‘Seva Saptah’ plan to be launched on party leader Rahul Gandhi’s birthday on June 19.
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