GST logjam ends, but Sena’s hardball tactics irk the BJP
The way the ruling party was forced to accept the Sena’s conditions to ensure its support to the GST bill in the Legislature has irked the BJP top brass in the statemumbai Updated: May 10, 2017 00:54 IST
The logjam over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) between warring allies BJP and Shiv Sena may have been resolved on Tuesday with the state cabinet — including Sena ministers — clearing the proposed tax bill. But not before some hard bargaining by the Sena, which was concerned about the negative impact the bill may have on the Sena-ruled BMC’s revenue. The bill will do away with Octroi, which is the highest revenue earner for the BMC. The Sena’s decision to play hardball did not amuse the BJP, which has now decided to go ahead with its preparations for possible early Assembly polls.
The past few days have seen tough negotiations between the ruling BJP and its ally Shiv Sena because the former needed the latter’s support to get the crucial GST bill passed in the Legislature. The Sena leadership made the BJP accept its conditions to compensate the BMC for its loss of octroi duty revenue every month with an annual rise of 8%. The government has also decided to give bank guarantee to the BMC in case the compensation gets delayed. BJP sources said Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray gave his nod on Tuesday, but with a condition that he would wait to see the fine print when the draft is put before the Legislature.
The way the ruling party was forced to accept the Sena’s conditions to ensure its support to the GST bill in the Legislature has irked the BJP top brass in the state. The BJP is short of 22 members for a simple majority and hence needs Sena support.
A section within the ruling party is of the opinion that if the Sena continues to challenge the BJP, it would be better to contest polls and come back with a full majority. Senior sources in the party told HT that a preliminary assessment had been carried out by the party this month and it shows the BJP can win a clear majority, even if the polls were held at the end of this year.
“If the Sena continues to war with us on small and big issues then it may be better to not to have any allies. Today, it was GST, tomorrow we know they will give us trouble over Presidential polls, then it may be something else. The party continues to target our top leadership so we need to be prepared for any eventuality. We are confident of getting 140 seats even if elections are held as early as this December ’’ said a senior party functionary.
He said the party organisation is readying itself for any possibility — state Assembly polls along with Lok Sabha polls in 2019, polls in early 2018 or snap polls in December 2017.
The Fadnavis government’s term will end only in October 2019, but with the Opposition parties aligning with each other and the Sena consistently playing the role of an opponent more than an ally, the BJP is not taking any chances.
While the BJP no longer worries about the May 20 special session of the state legislature wherein the GST bill will get ratified, the party had to go all out to get the Sena chief’s backing. This included a personal visit by the finance minister to Thackeray’s residence and getting the proposed draft bill scrutinised by him and accepting a demand of giving year on year, perpetual compensation to the BMC.
”For every session of the state legislature and any big decision of the government, getting the Sena to toe the line is proving to be difficult. We are not looking at forcing an early election. But in the given scenario it is a possibility,’’ said a BJP minister.
The party’s expansion exercise will start soon with the ’Vistarak Yojana’ (from May 25 to June 10) getting an additional push. The party programme will assign every office bearer to 10 polling booths. The party functionary has been mandated to spend 15 days in the polling booths assigned to him or her to establish a strong party network.