The rift between the ruling alliance partners has widened further with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) stepping up its attack against the Congress.
Speaking in Nanded on Monday, NCP state unit chief Madhukar Pichhad called the chief minister, without naming Prithviraj Chavan directly, “gutless”. Pichad also indulged in some bravado by saying that once Ajit Pawar, who recently resigned as the deputy chief minister, takes over the reins of the state, the Congress will learn what a chief minister should be like.
“We have to first make efforts to make Ajit dada the chief minister; then we will see how this gutless chief minister compares to him,” Pichad said at a function to welcome former legislator Pratap Chikhalikar into the NCP fold. The two parties have been in power in Maharashtra for the past 12 years, during which the Congress has always retained the CM’s post.
In Mumbai, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik tried to temper the attack. “We have always said that the CM is a decent man, but his capacity to take decisions is poor.
Quick decisions need to be taken, otherwise the perception formed is that the government is doing nothing.”
The relationship between the allies has been at its worst this year, with Pawar stepping down in the aftermath of the irrigation scam. Chavan’s decisions in the past, especially the announcement of a white paper on irrigation, besides dissolution of the state’s apex co-operative bank, had irked the NCP. Senior NCP leaders also feel that Chavan has joined hands with the opposition to target the NCP over scams.
Taking a cue from its party chief Sharad Pawar, the NCP also attacked the Congress state unit chief Manikrao Thakre over his remarks linking the NCP with goons. On Sunday, Pawar took a dig at Thakre over his statement asking why the Congress had maintained alliance with NCP for eight years if it was a party of goons.
On Monday, Malik taunted Thakre for having half-baked information and released party-wise statistics on legislators with the most number of criminal cases against them. Mailk said that the National Election Watch report states that 143 out of the 288 legislators in Maharashtra had criminal cases, and the Shiv Sena led the roost with 31, followed by the Congress and BJP at 26 each and the NCP with 24. There are 36 independent MLAs with criminal records.
Political observers feel that the NCP’s aggressive posturing and direct questioning of Chavan’s leadership is with an eye on 2014 polls. “If the Congress is spreading canards about us, why should we keep quiet? Their leadership is ineffectual; we are just expressing it,” said a senior NCP leader.