BJP plays Lavasa card to check Pawar’s presidential ambition
BJP sources point out that NCP is exploiting each opportunity to put the Fadnavis government in a tight spot, while Pawar is emerging as a unanimous choice for UPA ahead of the presidential electionpune Updated: May 24, 2017 17:52 IST
The Devendra Fadnavis government’s decision to revoke the special planning authority status of the planned hill station in Lavasa, near Pune, is being seen as a strong political signal to NCP Chief Sharad Pawar ahead of the presidential election. Several non-BJP political parties, including the Congress, are pushing Pawar’s name for the July presidential election as they feel that the NCP chief may pose as a serious challenge to the NDA nominee.
While the activists of Medha Patkar’s National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM), which has been agitating against alleged irregularities in the Lavasa project, look at it as a ‘fait accompli’, the timing of the decision has raised many eyebrows in the political circles.
It was way back in 2011 that the Maharashtra’s Urban Development Authority (UDD) had recommended the cancellation of the special planning authority (SPA) status of Lavasa, the first private entity to have accorded such status. Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also had passed serious strictures against Lavasa.
Fadnavis government’s decision comes 30 months after it came to power and the understanding between the two parties (BJP-NCP) is gradually diminishing. BJP sources point out that NCP is exploiting each opportunity to put the Fadnavis government in a tight spot, while Pawar is emerging as a unanimous choice for UPA ahead of the presidential election.
Pawar had said that he is not interested in contesting election for the top post in the country on several occasions. However, several political leaders, including those from NCP, say that “when Pawar says no, it means yes”. BJP leaders in Maharashtra are already uncomfortable with NCP because of the ‘sangharsha yatra’ undertaken by all opposition parties and have started sensing political trouble ahead. They also fear that Pawar may upset BJP’s calculations in the presidential election considering his relationship with all political leaders across the country.
The NCP supremo has been a vocal supporter of Lavasa since its beginning. Inspired by the ‘Lake district’ in United Kingdom, Pawar was pushing the idea in western Maharashtra, which has the potential to facilitate such hill stations because of the geographical features of the region. The project was launched in the late 90s with the name ‘Lake City Corporation’ and was renamed later as ‘Lavasa’ after Hindustan Construction Company took over. Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule was the director of Lavasa but resigned when her father’s pet project started generating controversies one after the other. Controversies included massive hill cutting, illegal land transactions, use of dam water and the threat it posed to the environment and biodiversity in the project.
NCP and Congress experienced a tense relationship because of Lavasa when both the parties ruled Maharashtra. NCP leaders believed that UPA government was deliberately putting obstacles in the way of Lavasa project. Congress-NCP government was on the verge of collapse on at least two occasions due to the same issue. In October 2012, Pawar had publicly supported Lavasa at a party function where he was being personally targeted over the issue.
In July 2011, Pawar’s dinner meeting with the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh at Lavasa also fuelled several speculations in the political circles. Apart from top government officials, the meeting was attended by various other Lavasa authorities and Ajit Pawar, who was the irrigation minister at that time.
Narendra Modi visited Lavasa in March 2012 when he was the Gujarat chief minister and created controversy in Maharashtra as the state party leaders were targeting the project. Modi had visited Lavasa to examine the project and check whether it was viable for Gujarat.