By Sanjay Jog
Buoyed by resounding victory in the Mumbai and Thane municipal corporations’ polls, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine is fully geared to take on the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance government during the five-week Budget session of the Maharashtra Assembly.
The Opposition combine is preparing to fire salvos on a number of issues like corruption cases against high profile leaders, Adarsh society scam, burgeoning debt burden of the state, water and power shortages and increasing naxalite activities.
Development of the 9,900-Mw Jaitapur project would pit the ruling and Opposition parties against each other, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing agitation in the Kudankulam nuclear project in Tamil Nadu.
The session will begin on March 15, and state finance minister, Ajit Pawar, will present the Budget for 2012-13 on March 26.
For chief minister Prithviraj Chavan — yet to come out of the shock after the Congress’ defeat in the civic elections — the session is important, as his policies of pursuing transparency and sanity in the administration have not gone down well with the Opposition.
Though the Opposition is vocal against the policy paralysis under Chavan’s style of functioning, Congress and NCP members admit there is a need to put decision-making on a fast track by the government ahead of the next Assembly elections, to be held in 2014.
The Opposition has decided to also grill the government on the disproportionate assets case involving former president of Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee, Kripashankar Singh. The Opposition has alleged that the government is making all efforts to protect Singh, who despite the court proceedings is yet to be arrested. BJP is also demanding that minister of state for transport, Gulabrao Deokar (NCP), be arrested for his alleged role in the multi-crore housing scam in Jalgaon.
Congress and NCP are also planning a counter attack on the BJP and Sena, as a high profile Shiv Sena leader and former minister, Suresh Jain, has already been arrested for his alleged involvement in the Jalgaon housing scam.
The Opposition parties also plan to have a special debate on the deteriorating finances and rising debt burden which has already crossed Rs 2.47 lakh crore. They are not convinced by the argument made by CM Chavan and his deputy, Ajit Pawar, that the debt was within the stipulated limits. It would be a difficult task for Pawar to keep his promise of a revenue surplus Budget of Rs 56 crore for 2011-12. State government sources believe the Budget may turn deficit, as the government had recently announced a Rs 2,000-crore package for cotton growers and promised to shell out funds to implement relief programmes in the scarcity-hit districts.
The Opposition will also corner the government on the rising mismatch between demand and supply of power. The government has admitted that the state distribution company was maintaining the show by effectively pursuing load management. Delays in the implementation of power generation projects due to issues like fuel supply and procurement of equipment may force the government to revise the 2012 target.