A month after he said the Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra has no plans to restore the Old Pension Scheme, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today spoke of a possible rethink.
"Let me be clear, we are not negative about it (OPS). We will discuss it with finance and other departments. But whatever be the solution, it has to be long-term, not short-term," the BJP leader said, mirroring the rather ambiguous position taken by his party in other states as well.
The Congress and other Opposition parties have recently reverted to the OPS — phased out in early 2004 — in states they govern, such as Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. The BJP has been against it, citing huge financial burden on governments, but its leaders have added a may-consider-it caveat.
The OPS gave employees with 20 years of service at least 50 per cent of their last salary as pension, but the burden was entirely on the government and there was no corpus collected from the staff. Under the New Pension Scheme (NPS), government and staff both contribute — 10 and 14 per cent of the salary, respectively — towards a fund from which the pension is later drawn.
Mr Fadnavis was speaking at a rally ahead of the January 30 Legislative Council polls, seeking votes for BJP's Kiran Patil from Aurangabad Division Teachers' Constituency. Mr Patil is hoping to unseat the NCP's Vikram Kale, who has raised the OPS demand.
"These people only talk (about OPS)," Mr Fadnavis said in a reference to the NCP, "But if there is going to be a change in the present pension scheme to the old one, only we (BJP) have the courage to do that; not these people."
His comment comes less than two weeks after Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, too, said the his government is "positive" on this issue. He, too, was speaking at an election rally in support of a BJP candidate in a teachers' constituency.
In December, however, responding to a BJP MLA's question in the assembly, Mr Fadnavis had said, "The government will not revive the old pension scheme. It will put an additional burden of Rs 1.1 lakh crore on the state exchequer."