Congress aims for populist sops; NCP, Sena shoot them down?Updated: Feb 10, 2020 23:56 IST
While the Congress, which is the third partner in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state, has been trying to pitch populist schemes such as providing free electricity and bigger houses to slum-dwellers, its ruling partners, the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), seem to be shooting them down.
Congress leader and the state’s energy minister Nitin Raut on Friday announced that his department was tapping the idea of making electricity free for consumers who use below 100 units of power. Raut said he has directed his department to check the feasibility of such a sop for below poverty line (BPL) families and slum-dwellers. However, a day after the announcement, deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar ridiculed the idea and said the government should not resort to providing freebies. “In the backdrop of the current financial situation, we can’t afford to offer such sops,” he said on Sunday. If the state provides a waiver to 40 lakh consumers who use less than 100 units of power every month, the annual burden on the exchequer is expected to be around ₹1,300 crore.
The Congress’s second ambitious scheme announced ahead of the polls last year was to provide 500-sqft houses to slum-dwellers.In a recent letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Milind Deora expressed the need for the party ministers in the state to press for such a scheme. However, in a recent report, the SRA said providing 500-sqft houses against the existing norm of 300-sq ft houses would not be possible as it will put burden on the infrastructure. The housing department is headed by NCP minister Jitendra Awhad. According to some Congress leaders, the schemes coined by them are being derailed in the race of one-upmanship. However, state chief of the Congress, Balasaheb Thorat, said, “There is no discord within the government. Raut said we’re considering offering free power to the poor and the modalities are being checked. Similar is the case with bigger houses. We had a manifesto with NCP, so all the ruling parties are committed to fulfil it.”