After the Opposition, it was the turn of ally Shiv Sena to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the hike in the value added tax (VAT) on fuel and other products, ostensibly imposed to make up for the money spent on drought relief.
The party, in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna on Friday, termed the hike an attempt to “pick pockets of citizens in the name of drought”. The criticism comes even as the state cabinet, including Sena ministers, has cleared the hike proposal.
The Sena’s attack on its ally and rival BJP is in the wake of a tussle between the two parties in the upcoming civic polls, especially in Kalyan, where the BJP is keen on going solo. The Sena said it was imperative for the Narendra Modi-led Centre to provide a package to tackle drought in Maharashtra.
“The central government has recognised the problems of Bihar and offered them a handsome package. It’s time the state got that kind of importance. A package would provide respite to the farmers, who are migrating in large numbers,” said the editorial. “We don’t need Rs1 lakh crore, but Rs5,000 crore to Rs25,000 crore, too, would suffice,” it said.
The editorial pointed the state was not asking for a favour. “We are asking for our legitimate share as Mumbai contributes Rs1.50 lakh crore to the Central exchequer,” it added.
Although the Sena is the oldest ally of the BJP, it has not spared a single opportunity to put in on the mat in the past year. While the Sena joined the state government, it has been upset over the latter’s expansionist agenda and feels it has not been consulted on important issues. This is the second time in a week that Saamna has criticised the BJP.
Earlier, this week, as Modi wrapped up his high-profile US trip, an editorial reminded the BJP that other leaders such as India’s first Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and former PM Indira Gandhi, too, were as popular, even without the aid of social media. The editorial had said the contribution of several past Congress PMs, including P V Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, cannot be forgotten.
The cash-strapped state government has announced an increase in VAT on items such as petrol, diesel, gold, tobacco products and liquor to raise Rs1,600 crore within six months, to make up for the loss of revenue on fuel and in the light of increased expenditure on drought.