Aaditya Thackeray On GST, Demonetisation And Other Failures Of NDA

The Maharashtra government has completed three years this October, and the report is a mixed bag. 

This blog is about certain facts based on the Honorable Chief Minister's opinion, in an interview, that the Shiv Sena has played the dual role of being in government and playing the opposition too.

The opinion is true. So is this true: that the Shiv Sena has been forced to play the opposition, while in government through the NDA at both the centre and the state level. 

Let me begin with what we opposed. Then I'll come to why the opposition turned public.

Back in June 2014, the Railways Ministry hiked the fares of Mumbai's suburban rail network. The sudden hike came as a shocker to us, as also to many colleagues in the state BJP. The newly-sworn government of the NDA had pitched its opinion before the election against such hikes without bettering the quality of services. With our allies in the state too scared to discuss this or voice anything to the centre, we had to voice it.

Result: it was rolled back.

Then came the famed Land Acquisition Bill. This Bill was a major image-changer for the NDA where the government displayed its dictatorial streak for the first time while also being anti-farmer. The removal of 80% consent from land owners  for industries to take away their land and the absence of an evaluation of the environmental impact and social impact of such acquisition meant that the draconian law would have created havoc in the country.

This law meant, if you have no voice, you will not be heard at all! The NDA's Bill was far less equitable than what the Congress had offered in its 2013 Bill, despite what was meant to be a popular - populist BJP.

The Shiv Sena had to oppose it. As did other parties. You can't treat any citizen as second-class and allow land to be snatched away from them. It was rolled back.

Then came Demonetisation, the Demon. Without consultation, without planning, the move was brought about to curb black money, terrorism, fake currency. The Shiv Sena was the first one to oppose the way it was implemented. Not the intent.

Now, even the intent seems dubious.

The growth rate of the economy went down. Lakhs of jobs were lost. Businesses were shut down. Everything declined apart from counterfeit money, terrorism and black money. The less said, the better.

Demonetisation failed. It failed the hopes of all those who stood in never-ending lines for the country. It failed the country.

Then came GST. Mumbai  stood  to lose the maximum from this move which killed the economic independence of revenue and expenditure of local governments. With the Shiv Sena's hard bargains, debates and many public and in committee proposals, the Finance Ministry accepted our demands. Otherwise, Mumbai would have lost its financial importance.

Now, the GST is being tweaked as per each state election, beginning with Gujarat (making the Gujarat Model seem a failure) and is now a tool for every party at the centre to adjust before elections. 

It was to be One Nation, One Tax. Everyone knows what it's turned out to be, especially when the Prime Minister tries to share its blame with the opposition party, while, when it seemed good, it was presented like freedom at midnight delivered only by the BJP and nobody else.

The Shiv Sena has stood against the metro car shed in Aarey. Any sensible government wouldn't touch Aarey as it has documented evidence of leopards and many other species of flora fauna in it. World-renowned photographers like Steve Winter have clicked these big cats here.

Yet, the Chief Minister argued whether the state should spend 1,800 crores to shift the car shed.

If the government can spend 300 crores on social media for its own publicity, surely 1,800 crores is nothing for sustainable growth and environment! Furthermore, the contract of making the 5,000-crore metro for the city is given to a contractor blacklisted by the BMC for shoddy work! There goes transparency!

Recently the Shiv Sena took to streets against the rising fuel prices and inflation. The less said about the BJP's hypocrisy, the better.

Well, the Shiv Sena was only guided by the BJP's campaign banners that asked for votes by promising better prices, saying "Bahut hui mehengai ki maar, abki baar..."

I wonder why no one from the BJP ever rejected the statement "If they have cars, they can pay more"; it's the Marie Antoinette moment of a Central Minister.

The Mumbai University has been a boiling issue in the state. The cabinet education minister has been virtually clueless about any solutions. The online admissions and assessments have been a mess. Lakhs of students didn't get their results from May to October only because of this delay.

We met the minister in the March of 2015: he said "yes" to our suggestions in the private meeting. Then didn't act.

We had to protest in 2016. He made a joke about it.

By 2017, the University of Mumbai became a cruel joke on the students stuck in it. Many who had paid fees abroad couldn't start college there, only because they had no results in hand.

The re-evaluation results, by the way, aren't yet out. And the company that's messed it up has been given an extension on the same work that it botched up.

The Shiv Sena has long stood for farmers. In Maharashtra, farmer suicides are still on the rise and the BJP had somewhat been a part of the campaign (as the opposition) for loan waivers for farmers. After protests from the Shiv Sena, the government turned its view on the waiver from "not economically viable" to having "digital records" to making a complete mess of the situation today.

The government has put the entire farmer loan waiver process in such chaos that it seems that the confusion will hit the farmers harder than the drought.

No, we aren't opposing the government because we enjoy it. We are opposing issues. We are reminding the government of the promises it made, the protests it participated in, the demands they raised together with us as the opposition to a Congress that was rejected by the people.

If the government was to focus, as keenly as it does on social media, hoardings, event management and public relations campaigns, on the promises and demands we made together, we will be accepted time and again by the people.

Demonetisation; GST; terror attacks; education issues; censorship against government critique; slow-down in growth of the economy; shut-down of businesses; loss of jobs; the discontent of women, students, farmers, professionals, traders - all this has been papered over by the BJP using publicity to project its own view.

The key issue is that the government has turned a deaf ear to people and their woes. The government was elected because it heard the people, spoke the people's issues while in opposition. Today, leave aside hearing the people, there is zero coordination in the NDA.

No one would like to be an opposition in government. One would be happier defending the government, if it is morally defensible anymore. If the issues were discussed with allies behind closed doors, as it were earlier, the Shiv Sena would voice criticism behind closed doors. If the party hears it through media and social media campaigns, the party will have to voice its opinion publicly.

The Shiv Sena isn't opposing, we are just making sure that the government hears the people's "mann ki baat".

(Aaditya Thackeray is the president of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena)

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