Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Monday went on the offensive against regional parties, reiterating that everyone was welcome in the State.

Replying to the motion of thanks on the Governor's joint address to the legislature, he said he knew of a placement agency run by someone from a political party that was pro-Marathi. It had recruited 150 people from “outside” the State for jobs. Parties were raising the Marathi and non-Marathi issue only for political ends. The party to which the agency owner belonged had one different stand publicly and privately.

Mr. Chavan said he was not criticising this kind of recruitment. On the contrary, he welcomed it. He could give information on the agency at the appropriate moment. Maharashtra was for everyone and he would do whatever was constitutionally required to make people welcome in the State.

Mr. Chavan attacked Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse, who had criticised him during the debate. He said both he and Mr. Khadse were in their respective positions due to fate. He had come back as Chief Minister for the second time because the State had put faith in him and it was true that the former Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, was elevated to the Centre. Mr. Khadse was Leader of the Opposition because two Bharatiya Janata Party stalwarts — Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari — were now in New Delhi.

The Opposition had targeted Mr. Chavan's, saying he was not able to handle a coalition government, after a recent spat between him and Irrigation Minister Ajit Pawar (NCP) at a Cabinet meeting.

The Chief Minister said that in a coalition there would be some differences but there was perfect understanding between the Congress and the NCP and there was no need to create any misunderstanding on this issue.

He told the Opposition that during the only time the BJP and the Shiv Sena ruled the State from 1995-1999, the late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan had to repeatedly come to Mumbai from New Delhi to meet Sena chief Bal Thackeray and soothe ruffled feathers.

Mr. Chavan said the government had spent Rs. 47 lakh on the Pune blast victims. Earlier, a BJP MLA alleged that a cheque given by the government to the family of a young techie killed in the blast had bounced.

Intelligence agencies had pointed out that Chabad house was the target and due to the tight security there, the target was shifted to German Bakery, he said. He commended the police for maintaining security.

Suicides by farmers

Mr. Chavan said while he was not happy with the situation, farm suicides were showing a declining trend and there was need to keep the assistance packages going in the affected districts. The programmes had to be monitored and more Central funds were needed. The State government would not give new licences for those wanting to set up factories producing liquor from grain.

The Chief Minister defended the financial position of the State, saying that though it had a large debt, the government had the ability to repay loans and there was no overdraft.

On rural employment, he said funds were not a constraint. There were 96,000 people on the employment guarantee scheme rolls as of March 13, 2010. It was true that there was a demand for work and the scheme could be improved.