In the Budget session commencing on Monday, the Congress and NCP have decided to put up a united front against the ruling BJP though they are still divided on a specific agenda to corner the ruling party. Weighed by political considerations and oneupmanship to make inroads in their respective constituencies, Congress and NCP top leaders failed to arrive at a consensus on five key proposals, including corruption, which should be pursued in the Budget session from February 26 to March 28. The state budget will be presented on March 9.
Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil initiated the process of dialogue to reach out to smaller allies such as Samajwadi Party, Peasants and Workers Party, and MNS to get them onboard for the Budget session. However, Shiv Sena, an alliance partner of the ruling BJP, has given clear indications that it would not like to join hands with the Congress and NCP.
The strategy drawn by the Opposition keeps in mind the forthcoming Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections. The Opposition believes agriculture and farmers issues are critical to address their rural constituencies.
Although the Opposition has drawn a long list of issues across core sectors including industries and employment, it is trying to find a strategy to help them connect with the masses. The Congress-NCP will demand a white paper on investments in Maharashtra.
A senior NCP leader said, “The loan waiver and Swaminathan Commission recommendation of minimum support price (MSP) to farmers were our most powerful weapons to beat the BJP. But in the last one year, the Centre-state took a decision on both these issues. The state government has given the loan waiver, which is under process, and the Centre has announced MSP policy for farmers.” Therefore, Opposition believes it will have to question the government’s enforcement in agriculture sectors to highlight the failures. On the urban front, the Opposition would pick faults in infrastructure and industries. From Kamala Mills fire to Bhima Koregaon riots, the Opposition plans to bring up several issues to unsettle the BJP in the House.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Girish Bapat has categorically conveyed the government’s willingness to allow every debate in the Assembly and Council. The government has decided to make higher allocations in the agriculture sector to pledge its commitment to farmers in Maharashtra. The government has cited the increase in overall allocations from Rs 54,000 crore (2015-16) to Rs 76,000 crore (2016-17).
To counter the Opposition attack on the loan waiver issue, the BJP said, “The direct loan waiver deposit of Rs 23,000 crore to 47 lakh farmers in bank accounts has helped us check corruption of Rs 10,000 crore.” “The transparent process has enabled to bring 35 lakh farmers back into the institutional credit system. They were thrown out of the system and denied crop loan since 2009,” added a party source.
Political managers in the BJP said ‘Magnetic Maharashtra: Convergence 2018’, which promises Rs 16 lakh crore investments and employment, is in itself a telling comment on the state’s growth.