Under pressure from his own party that he supervise the power situation in the state, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan held a closed door meeting with the energy secretary Sitaram Kunte on Thursday. Chavan apparently wanted to understand the issue, especially in the wake of the recent tariff hike, which his party thinks could invite voters’ wrath.
Chavan’s move is politically significant because deputy chief minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar heads the energy department. State Congress president Manikrao Thakre had urged Chavan to take charge when the state faced an acute power shortage last month, which had resulted in outages of between three to 13 hours. The shortage was blamed on the lack of coal supply to generation companies that sold power to the state distribution company Mahavitaran.
While the situation improved before Diwali – the state company Mahavitaran somehow managed to avoid power cuts during the festival – 1.80 crore consumers of the utility were subjected a tariff hike of around 11% from November 1.
Most of these consumers are in the areas where the municipal corporation, municipal council and zilla parishad polls will be held over the next four months. There have been four such hikes this year.
Though the electricity regulator said the hike would help the revenue-starved company in improving credit worthiness, consumer representatives and opposition parties alleged that the company failed financially because of rampant corruption. Consumers will challenge the hike in the tribunal while the Opposition has threatened a statewide agitation.
Sources close to Chavan said he wanted to know intricacies of the department that the NCP has held since 1999 – the period that saw the worst-ever power crisis. On Thursday, CM met Kunte and assessed several factors including the promise of making the state power cut-free by next year, and tariff determination.
When asked, all Chavan said, was, “I wanted some cabinet notes.”