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Monsoon musings: Nebulous BJP leaves Fadnavis bewildered?

Monday, July 18, 2016

With its silent manouevres the BJP holds its cards close to its chest, rendering a round of anxiety to Mahrashtra's CM Fadnavis

We will not use the often-used cliché “a stormy session awaits the government”, because it is going to be interesting. The three-week Monsoon Session of the state legislature that begins from Monday, July 18, here begins amidst a backdrop of quite Machiavellian behind-the-scenes manoeuvres which has ensured that neither of the main protagonists the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) or the Congress can confidently say that they have the upper hand. But one thing is clear the BJP and its Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have to face a somewhat belligerent opposition at least in the Legislative Council.

The Congress,  the NCP-led opposition seems to be springing back to life after almost being in two-year hibernation. The entry of  the Sena's arch rival Narayan Rane into the Council on the Congress benches is the reason for this renewed vigour. Both the NCP and the BJP have a tacit understanding in the Upper House. The NCP occupies both the constitutional posts of Council Chairman and Leader of Opposition. Though, the NCP has assured the Congress that it will give the Deputy Chairman's post to it, the fact remains that the post still remains vacant. Just like the BJP has kept the Deputy Speaker's post vacant and kept its ruling ally the Sena on tenterhooks.

Moreover, the Congress has not made Rane as the party's Group leader or Chief Whip of the party in the legislative council. Fadnavis knows fully well that Rane has the oratory skills and the grasp of the administrative machinery, facts that came to light when Rane was the Sena's opposition leader till 2004 and prior to that as Sena's chief minister in 1999. But then Rane has to first cross the hurdle of NCP's leader of opposition Dhananjay Munde and then legislative council Chairman Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar (NCP). That is until the Congress does not make him head of its legislature party.

But that does not mean that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should heave a sigh of relief. The Congress-NCP has plenty of ammunition against the government. Be it the recent verdict of the Aurangabad division bench of the Bombay High Court in the Take Home Ration (THR) tender allotment case, controversies surrounding former Revenue minister Eknath Khadse, the potholed roads of Mumbai, the war of words with the Sena or the recent heartburn and disquiet within the BJP over reshuffling of the cabinet portfolios. Not to speak of the allegations of taint against some of the new faces like Sambhajirao Nilangekar-Patil, Jaykumar Rawal, Pandurang Phundkar and others.

The manner in which Pankaja Munde was divested of the Water Conservation portfolio and the manner in which Fadnavis made her attend the international conference on water in Singapore that on a stern reply to her tweet, speaks volumes of the cold war between the two. Ram Shinde made matters worse by delaying taking charge of the Water Conservation portfolio and even taking consent. In other words it is being interpreted as ignoring the Chief Ministers decision.

The only redeeming feature is that the monsoon this year has been satisfactory so far, though the administration is still keeping its fingers crossed. When asked about the cabinet expansion, Rane non-chalantly dismissed it by saying that barring one or two ministers the rest lack experience. For Fadnavis and his ministers the warning notice has already been served.

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