Three days before the state goes to polls, incumbent Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said that the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will not stop migrants from entering the city.
“How can we discriminate?” asked Chavan during a discussion on the Maharashtra Assembly polls conducted by Rajdeep Sardesai for CNN IBN. Other panelists included Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Bharat Kumar Raut and senior journalists Nikhil Wagle and Kumar Ketkar.
“The Constitution allows people to live and work in any part of India. And my government will stand by the Constitution,” said Chavan.
The Marathi manoos seems to be at the centre of the Assembly polls with all parties trying to woo him. While the manifesto of the Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance promises a ‘Translation Directorate’ to translate all major literature in the world into Marathi and a Marathi week, the Congress-NCP has promised to start a ‘Marathi language conservation fortnight’.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has pitched itself as a party for the Marathi manoos. But Raut insisted that was the Sena’s turf. “The Sena was born to fight for the legitimate rights of the Marathi manoos and we stand for it,” said Raut. “There could be many players but that doesn’t mean our stand is diluted.”
Congress President Sonia Gandhi had recently said people should beware of those who use the Maratha warrior king’s name for political gains. But the Congress-led state government received flak for doing just that when it announced a Rs 350-crore Shivaji memorial off the Mumbai coast.
Chavan defended the move saying it was a “long cherished dream of the people”. Ketkar chose to disagree. “This is a completely misplaced priority. People didn’t demand a statue,” Ketkar said. “Everybody respects Shivaji but nobody demanded that the environment be destroyed. Shivaji Maharaj would not have liked this himself.”
Ketkar also criticised the Sena saying it has achieved noting for the Marathi manoos. “The Sena was formed in 43 years ago and they are still fighting for the same cause, which means they have not been able to do anything.”
Chavan said that his government was taking steps for the ‘bhoomiputra’.
“The government has taken steps to see that locals get employment. We have reserved 80 per cent jobs for locals since the 1990s.”
He also took the debate as a chance to market other achievements of his government. “We have been able to add 2,500 MW of power in Maharashtra. Private investment in power is coming up,” he said.
“The Government of India has finalised new projects. The state government also has some projects planned. By 2012 Maharashtra will have surplus power. That’s a plan.”
Responding to an audience question about rebellion, he said that the Congress-NCP combine said his party expected rebels joining it to adopt the party’s ideology.
“This (rebellion) is a phenomenon on the eve of elections. In the last 30 years, several times people have left. But the ideology of the Congress is secular. And we expect him (a rebel) to become secular when he joins the party.”