Cong-NCP get together but fail to score in the Maharashtra budget session
Just days ahead of the budget session of the state legislature that took off on February 26, estranged allies – the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – announced that they would contest all upcoming polls together against the BJP.
The statement from the local leadership came days after NCP chief Sharad Pawar praised Congress president Rahul Gandhi and predicted ‘ache din’ for the Congress. The coming together of the allies led to an expectation of a sharper political strategy. However, over the last month, during the budget session, one witnessed a dismantling of the Opposition as it failed to score on even a single issue in the legislature.
This was clearly not because of the lack of issues. The voters’ honeymoon period with the Devendra Fadnavis-led government, now three years old, is over. There is serious discontent on the ground and the farmers’ strike of last year, the Dalit agitations and the farmers’ long march this year are few examples of this.
“Our leadership in the legislature is our biggest weakness. Instead of targeting the government on one issue and then holding on it for maximum impact, we generally chase too many issues,” said a Congress legislator. The leader of the Opposition in the assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, is not taken seriously within the Congress-NCP as he has failed to put the government on the mat through sharp speeches or exposes like his predecessor, BJP leader Eknath Khadse. “There is a trust deficit regarding Vikhe-Patil, since everyone knows he shares cordial relations with the CM,” said an NCP leader.
Other alternatives like former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, capable of a sharp and studied attack on the Opposition is probably not an option for the state Congress as he is isolated in the party and the NCP leadership continues to see him as an enemy.
The NCP is also battling leadership crisis as its senior-most leader, Ajit Pawar, continues to be hounded by the shadow of the irrigation scam. The leader of Opposition in the council, Dhananjay Munde while more aggressive than Vikhe-Patil is largely focussed on battling his cousin and BJP minister Pankaja Munde. This time he was also subdued, probably thanks to an audio clip that went viral, alleging he asked for a bribe to drop a calling attention motion.
This state of leadership has effectively left no impact in the legislature. For instance while the Opposition managed stalling the work of the house in the initial week, it failed to hit the government hard on anything.
A classic example of this is that the Opposition could not force the government to table former bureaucrat K P Bakshi committee report on industries minister Subhash Desai (submitted when the session was on) or even the Johnny Joseph-led committee report on bureaucrat Radheshyam Mopalwar to discuss the clean chits given to them.
“They have to be on the offensive because situation has changed from 2014,” said Prakash Bal, political analyst. He said the Opposition was a disaster because of Congress-NCP’s “darbari style of politics.”
“They don’t want to get their hands dirty. They hope the political atmosphere will get created against the BJP and then they will sit back and reap the benefits,” said Bal.