The tiff between the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) continued on Thursday with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan hitting back at his Cabinet colleagues for leaking news about what had transpired in Wednesday’s Cabinet meet.
“The person who leaked the news [to the media] should have the courage to say this openly in front of me. It’s wrong to publish such reports,’’ Chavan told journalists in Pune on Thursday.
Chavan was in the city to inaugurate a state-level conference of district collectors and revenue officials.
Chavan did not take names but he was evidently gunning for his deputy Chhagan Bhujbal.
Media reports had said that NCP ministers, led by Bhujbal, had sought a clarification from Chavan for backtracking on the taxi permit issue and shown him the 1989 rules that state that working knowledge of Marathi is mandatory for taxi permits. The Cabinet then confirmed the decision as per the 1989 rules.
Chavan, got unexpected support from his rival, Revenue Minister Narayan Rane.
“It is an offence to leak any matter discussed in the Cabinet and we will not hesitate to take action,’’ said Rane, who was accompanying Chavan. “All of us are firmly supporting Chavan. Any minister, who leaked the news can be asked to resign as per law.’’
Bhujbal was unable for comment. NCP spokesperson Madan Bafna said: “We don’t know who they are referring to. They should be direct. We agree that Cabinet news should not be leaked.’’
Bhujbal had told Hindustan Times on Wednesday that cabinet had just confirmed 30-year-old law and not made any new rules. He had, however, refused to speak about the row in the meeting.
NCP leaders in the Cabinet had cornered Chavan to ensure that they were not seen as weak in promoting the sons-of-the-soil agenda. Some Congress ministers termed NCP’s stance as “too hardline’’.
Chavan confirmed on Thursday that taxi drivers would have to know Marathi to avail new permits. But the issue is unlikely to end here.
Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam on Thursday said the government should amend the 1989 rules if they stated that knowing Marathi was a prerequisite for availing taxi permits.