Fearing backlash from farmers, a law that gives the government arbitrary powers to allocate the state’s water resources to industries may be reviewed or scrapped.
Relations between the Congress and its ally the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have been strained since NCP’s Sunil Tatkare, who heads the water resources department, tabled the bill and got it approved in the Legislative Assembly on April 13.
Angry Congress legislators, led by state party unit chief Manikrao Thakre, petitioned chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Monday. He has convened a meeting of all-party legislators and ministers (including NCP) on Tuesday to resolve the issue.
Congress minister Nitin Raut questioned water resources minister Tatkare’s intentions and wanted to him to clarify why he did not take others in confidence.
Senior NCP leader and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar dismissed the charges levelled saying that it was an attempt to defame his party. “Why did you allow us to pass the bill in the assembly?” he reportedly told his cabinet colleagues.
Pawar said his party was being accused of tabling the bill to support the controversial Sophia Power Company in Amravati (Vidarbha), which is opposed by farmers. "Should I tell who amongst you support this power company?” he asked.
The Congress alleged that Tatkare had pushed for the bill when a majority of Congress legislators were not present in the house. It also expressed concern regarding that provision that won’t allow any aggrieved party to challenge in the court the decisions taken by the group of ministers (GoM), led by water resources minister. The party wants the CM to head the GoM.
“The bill is unlikely to be discussed in the council before April 21 (the day the session ends). We will recommend it to be sent to the joint-select committee of the legislators,” said a senior Congress MLA requesting anonymity.
“Our legislators, especially from Vidarbha, expressed their concerns to the CM. He assured them positive action in this regard,” said Congress legislative party coordinator Sanjay Dutt.
Senior Congress leader Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, whose son and agriculture minister Radhakrishna will be a member of the GoM, said: “No government can do such injustice to farmers.”
Sources said Radhakrishna was also opposed to the bill. NCP ministers did not react to the development.