While the Maharashtra government’s move of denotifying two highways starting in Mumbai may have benefitted 500 establishments, including restaurants, bars, pubs and liquor shops, it has miffed its ally Shiv Sena.
Senior Sena minister Diwakar Raote, who handles the transport department and heads the State Road Security Council (SRSC), has approached chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, saying the move seems like an attempt to encourage sale of liquor.
Sena’s opposition to the decision comes amid speculations that senior Congress leader and former chief minister Narayan Rane, considered number one enemy of the Sena, may join the BJP .
Rane, a former Sena chief minister, defected to the Congress in 2005, after differences with Uddhav Thackeray, who is now the Sena president.
Last week, the state government de-notified two highways — Eastern Express Highway (EEH) and Western Express Highway (WEH) in Mumbai -- to escape the Supreme Court order, which banned sale of liquor within 500m along highways.
The highways have been handed over to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for repair and maintenance as city roads.
Referring to the move, Raote wrote, “The apex court decision is more about road safety rather than liquor ban on highways. In contrast, the state’s move is being seen as an attempt by the state government to encourage liquor selling and hence as the chief of SRSC, I am expressing my strong emotions to the decision.”
“The way state government handed over the state highways to the planning authority, it may face contempt of court proceedings,” the letter states.
The Sena move is likely to upset the BJP leadership and lead to a bitter fight between the ruling allies.
It indicates the recent reconciliation over dinner diplomacy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was temporary, sources said.
Bickering between both the parties -- the BJP and Sena -- is on despite running the government together in the state, with the latter taking aggressive stand on issues time and again.
The Sena joined the Opposition parties demanding loan waiver for distressed farmers in the state Assembly last month. The party ministers also led a delegation to the chief minister over alleged unequal allocation of funds to their legislators.
Sena leaders demanded higher allocation of funds for their constituencies based on their strength in the Assembly - 63.
Earlier, the allies-turned-rivals contested the civic elections on their own, turning the electoral battle into a bitter fight.
However, the BJP later decided to support Sena in the Mumbai civic body. Thackeray recently attended National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituents meet at New Delhi and also supported the resolution to contest the next general elections as a unit under the leadership of PM Modi.