Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis literally had a cakewalk in the two-week-long winter session of the Legislative Assembly and Council in Nagpur, which concluded on Friday, as the Congress and the NCP tried to engage in political one-upmanship, failing to work together to corner the BJP-led state government.
During the session, there was not a single meeting between the Congress and the NCP to discuss floor coordination to shortlist issues or evolve a strategy to corner the BJP government. What was more surprising was the lack of political will within the Congress to take on the government. As a result, individual Congress and NCP leaders were seen raising issues at will.
“The joint rally by the Congress and the NCP led by Sharad Pawar and Ghulam Nabi Azad on December 12 created a rift within the state Congress and the NCP. As a result, throughout the two-week-long session, there was not a single meeting held to discuss floor coordination,” said a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity. “The Congress managed to attract people to the rally but the NCP stole the show,” he added. This caused heartburn among the Congress leaders, he said.
In the Legislative Assembly, while NCP leaders were seen working in tandem with Ajit Pawar, Dilip Walse Patil and Jayant Patil, they were never seen taking their counterparts in the Congress like Prithviraj Chavan and Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil into confidence. Even within the Congress, individual leaders were seen taking independent decisions, often leaving askance their leaders. “If we look at the winter session, the Congress and the NCP were competing with each other to score points. Cornering the BJP did not seem to be their concern. As a result, the government had an upper hand,” said an MPCC general secretary.
“Besides, the Shiv Sena gave full support to the BJP on all critical debates and legislations. Therefore, the ruling alliance completely dominated a divided Opposition,” said an NCP leader. Vikhe-Patil said, “The Gujarat elections overshadowed the winter session. While the Congress tried to assert its number one position after the results were out, the NCP wanted an equal partnership.”
Also, the NCP’s emphasis on sugar and dairy farming often irked Congress members, who felt the session should focus more on issues riling Vidarbha. The upshot: Fadnavis had to face more pinpricks from within the BJP than the Congress and the NCP. Senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse, Nana Patole (MP) and Ashish Deshmukh (MLA) left no stone unturned to attack the government. Sources said even then, the Congress and the NCP couldn’t exploit the dissidence within the BJP to attack the party.
While Patole went on a spree of giving interviews, speaking against the government’s “failure” in the agriculture sector, Deshmukh wrote letters to Fadnavis to express his displeasure over the government’s inability to tackle farmers’ problems. Whereas, Khadse attacked the government on almost all core issues during Question Hour, debates and short discussions.
Highly placed sources in the BJP said the party’s central leadership had categorically told Khadse, Deshmukh and Parole to mend their ways. Meanwhile, on farmers’ issues, Fadnavis told the House that 48 lakh farmers had received the loan waiver worth Rs 23,500 crore. Moreover, the announcement of financial compensation to paddy and cotton farmers on the concluding day of the session helped take the steam off the Opposition.