In the recently concluded Assembly session in Nagpur, the Leader of Opposition, Devendra Fadnavis, tried to corner the government and mock the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) by comparing it with a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw. This led Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to respond that he agreed that the alliance is indeed a three-wheeled auto while reminding the BJP's suit-boot agenda members that the humble auto was the preferred mode of transport for the aam aadmi of Maharashtra versus the elitist and costly "bullet train sarkaar" that was accessible only to the rich. He also reiterated that his government of three parties will work for the poor, marginalised people of the state.
It is indeed interesting that the BJP continues to attack the Maharashtra's alliance government while forgetting its own history of stitching up unlikely alliances like with the PDP and Nitish Kumar after he had won a mandate for an entirely difference mahagathdandhan with the Congress and Lalu Yadav. Ram Vilas Paswan, who once called the BJP the Bharat Jalao Party, is now an ally. Goa, Haryana, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are also examples of the BJP's practise of gaining power at any cost. Why go that far, has Devendra Fadnavis forgotten his own two-day government? However, this isn't about the BJP but about the agenda of the government formed on a Common Minimum Program and strictly abiding by it.
For a backgrounder, the state's finances have taken a hit in the last five years with revenue receipts and Maharashtra's tax revenue falling. Most of the big ticket infra projects have been funded through international loans. The debt of the state has increased to Rs 4.71 lakh crore. While this is within the fiscal norms laid down by the centre, there is a limit to which borrowings can be hiked. Moreover, the centre has to reimburse the state its GST collection dues worth Rs 15,558 crores. Also, several investment proposals for Maharashtra never materialised because of demonetisation and the random implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
The latest CAG report has come down heavily on the Fadnavis government saying, "Non-submission of 32750 Utilisation Certificates amounting Rs 65,921.35 crores as on March 31, 2018, indicated lack of proper monitoring by the department in utilization of grants sanctioned for specific purposes. High pendency of UCs was fraught with the risk of misappropriation of funds and fraud."
However it was the brazen arrogance of power that the BJP government wielded that cost them the people's confidence. The finest example of this was silencing the Aarey Forest protests by booking student protestors under stringent laws of IPC, which Chief Minister Thackeray withdrew as soon as he took charge. What had happened was the brazen chopping down of trees in the middle of the night combined with an absolute disinterest in even understanding the destruction unleashed in the garb of development of a car shed. The BJP has resorted to now lying by saying that important infrastructure projects have been halted, a claim that is patently untrue.
Hence this government has double the responsibility - to counter the lies and balance all sections as well as maintaining financial jurisprudence. With that in mind, the Chief Minister announced a slew of measures to help farmers, including an outreach through the decentralisation of power and taking the Chief Minister's office to all seven divisions of the state. There will be announcement of projects to boost infrastructure, spur investment and create job opportunities for the state. Apart from announcing a loan waiver of upto Rs 2 lakhs for farmers, the government has announced 50 centres initially to provide a full meal at Rs 10 for the poor. The government has also proposed setting up Krishi Samruddhi Centres across the upcoming Mumbai-Nagpur expressway for employment generation and it has committed a steel plant at Surjagad in Gadchiroli.
The results in Jharkhand showed the BJP that arrogance does not pay and one cannot try to rise at the expense of the region's aspirations. In Jharkhand, the JMM won a historic number of seats and, with a pre-poll alliance in place, will govern the state. An important lesson for the BJP in the recent elections is to trust, mutually grow and respect its alliances, especially the long-standing ones. After losing yet another state l, the BJP's footprint in the country has shrunk to 34% from 70%.
The BJP needs to realise that development cannot be an agenda for a select few, the government cannot be in the service of the privileged, it has to work for the welfare of all. The recent developments across the nation due to the bull-headedness of the centre to not engage in a dialogue with its electorate or for that matter, even elected state governments, smacks of the arrogance of power. It is a fact the Prime Minister continues to enjoy huge goodwill, however the same cannot be said of his cabinet and the BJP as a party in general. It is time that the centre addresses the urgency of the challenges that the economy faces and the unemployment crisis that is disenchanting our youth and creating further schisms in the haves and the have nots.
We were to make this country's youth our demographic dividend, the current scenario is leading the country towards a demography divided.
(Priyanka Chaturvedi is a Deputy Leader & National Spokesperson, Shiv Sena.)
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