Mumbai: Opposition parties in Maharashtra have their guns trained on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government, as the budget session of the legislature opens on Monday. The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which parted ways before the 2014 assembly elections, have since come together to take on the BJP-led government.
Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has indicated in interviews to Marathi newspapers that the budget, to be presented on 9 March, would be oriented toward farmers and job creation.
NCP’s Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition in the legislative council, said the opposition would demand “the truth" about farm loan waiver from chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “Opposition leaders have been touring different parts of the state and meeting farmers. We have not met a single beneficiary of the farm loan waiver even though it was announced in June 2017. This is a bogus farm loan waiver and we expect the chief minister to tell the truth," Munde said.
Over the last one year, the Congress and NCP have united over farm sector issues, and leaders from both parties have expressed the need for a common strategy. On Sunday, opposition leaders met to discuss their legislative strategy.
On 21 February, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, at a public interaction with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, had said that the NCP would always prefer to go with the Congress than the BJP, and that only the Congress had the potential to take on the BJP at the national level. Congress leaders, including state unit chief Ashok Chavan, immediately welcomed the statement. Last week, the Congress-NCP leaders from the state met to form a united legislative strategy to corner the government during the budget session.
Munde also attacked the Narendra Modi government at the centre, saying it had promised to raise the minimum support prices (MSPs) for farm produce by 50% over and above the cost of production, but had failed to fulfil the promise even after four years. He also challenged the government’s claims of receiving investment commitments worth Rs12.1 trillion during the recent Magnetic Maharashtra summit. “During the Make in India week in Mumbai in February 2016, the government claimed it had signed MoUs worth Rs8 trillion that would create 3 million jobs. But the government has not to date come up with data regarding actual jobs created. Now, it has claimed investment commitments worth Rs12.1 trillion and 3.6 million jobs. This would prove to be as hollow a claim as the Make in India promise," he said.
On 28 February, NCP chief Sharad Pawar will lead a protest march of the backward Dhangar community to the legislature to remind the BJP of its electoral promise to the community to grant quotas in education and government jobs. During the winter session of the state legislature in Nagpur in December 2017, Pawar had led a joint Congress-NCP protest against the “bogus farm loan waiver".
NCP has also supported the Maratha community’s demand for reservations, though Pawar, during the Raj Thackeray interaction, advocated quotas not on caste grounds but for those who are economically backward.