The agitation against the local body tax (LBT) is slowing turning into a headache for the ruling Congress party as its principal opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seems to be driving the whole agitation.
With BJP leaders sharing stage with the protesting traders, many Congress leaders are finding it difficult to defend the government.
A Congress leader said the party could not afford to antagonise traders and retailers. “We are already facing the brunt of scandals and now with this issue we have driven the entire trading community into the BJP's arms,” he said.
The leader said the citizens were also turning against the government. “Most people don't know about LBT, but everyone is blaming us for our failure to tackle the strike,” he added.
The BJP, however, denied any political motive. “The state government passes bills on strength of brute majority and hence traders are justified in the strike,” said BJP legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha, who is actively participating in the protest.
Lodha, an aspirant for the south Mumbai Lok Sabha seat, is meeting trade associations, expressing support to their cause.
On Friday, the top brass of the state BJP, including president Devendra Fadnavis, sat on a dharna seeking scrapping of the LBT.
Congress leaders accused the BJP of using LBT to gain political leverage. “There is no harm in BJP espousing the cause of traders, but they are not doing it for the citizens,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, adding that the decision on LBT was a revolutionary one.
A major factor influencing the Congress is that these traders are main financers of political parties.
“Money plays an important role in politics and we have to depend on these traders,” said a Congress MP, adding that the CM Chavan should adopt a pragmatic approach to the problem.