Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s suggestion that implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme be left to the rural development ministry in Maharashtra has triggered lobbying by the Congress for a more high-profile portfolio in exchange from its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Though the state has been a pioneer in the implementation of the job guarantee scheme, in the last two years it has failed to make full use of the Centre’s grants for the scheme.
In a letter to the chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, last week, Ramesh had stated that rural development minister Jayant Patil had convinced him that the scheme would be implemented effectively by his department.
After being disconcerted initially, employment and water conservation minister Nitin Raut and state party president Manikrao Thakre are reportedly trying to get a more high profile department from the NCP.
The Congress has been unhappy over the 11-year-old power sharing formula by which the NCP got charge of important departments such as home, water resources (irrigation), finance, rural development, higher, technical and medical education.
Recently, Chavan had stated that the CM should head departments such as home and finance.
Said Thakre: “I would not say that Ramesh or the NCP is wrong. I welcome their suggestion if it is good for administration. But one should consider the demand made by the CM.”
While Chavan remained unavailable for comment, Raut said that he would seek further information on the letter from Ramesh.
Despite repeated attempts, Patil remained unavailable for comment.
State NCP President Madhukar Pichad said: “The Congress should hold a meeting with the coordination committee of the Congress-NCP alliance to discuss these issues.”