On the eve of the budget session of the Maharashtra Legislature, Opposition parties demanded an apology from Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for “misleading” the people of the State regarding his role in the appointment of P.J. Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner.
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena joined forces on Sunday with this demand, which would be raised during the session.
“After the Prime Minister blamed Prithviraj Chavan, Mr. Chavan denied having any connection with the appointment issue. He passed the buck to the Kerala government. However, Kerala had [advised] in clear terms not to appoint Mr. Thomas owing to the probe against him in the palmolein import case. Mr. Chavan is shirking responsibility [for his action]. He should apologise for misleading the 10 crore citizens of Maharashtra. We will put our demand before him,” Eknath Khadse, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, told a press conference here.
Earlier, the BJP demanded Mr. Chavan's resignation on moral grounds.
“How can the Chief Minister lie,” asked MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar. He opined that a no-confidence motion should be moved against the government. Mr. Khadse, however, later said that such a move would be taken only in extreme cases.
Fine for Deshmukh
The Opposition will also demand the recovery of the fine of Rs.10 lakh from Union Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The Supreme Court had slapped the fine on Mr. Deshmukh December 2010, for having prevented a case from being registered against a money-lender, but the State government, rather than pressure Mr. Deshmukh into paying the fine, had paid it up on its own before the 6-week deadline set by the Court.
“The fine was paid from taxpayers' money. The Minister should ideally have resigned, but he has been [given a Cabinet berth],” Mr. Khadse said.
What with the mafia raj, the prevalent scams, rising food prices and crop losses due to unseasonal rains, the Opposition has much ammunition to attack the government with. Especially, in the wake of the brutal killing of Additional Collector Yashwant Sonawane, the Opposition parties spoke of taking the government to task on the rise of all kinds of mafia — related to oil, sand, milk, cement and toll, to name a few.
“An officer from the Scheduled Caste community was killed in broad daylight by the oil mafia. Tendering methods have abetted the growth of the sand mafia. Then, I have two laboratory reports revealing a new product called synthetic milk. Cases of mixing urea with milk are on the rise. On the other hand, milk prices have gone up by Rs.2-3. Had all these activities been curbed, the State would have the funds to give its farmers,” he said.
The BJP has planned a morcha against the mafia raj, for the opening day of the budget session.
Mr. Khadse said the State was set to lose Rs.50,000 crore in sales tax and a similar amount due to irregularities in the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited.
Opposition to Jaitapur
Nuanced positions were taken on the Jaitapur nuclear power plant issue by all Opposition parties except the Shiv Sena, which unequivocally opposed the project.
“Jaitapur should not start till people's concerns are addressed. When the people give the nod, we will back it,” Mr. Khadse said.
The Opposition will also go to the mat with the government over the judicial probe into the Adarsh Housing society scam.
“Ashok Chavan's name is [listed] 13th in the FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Despite the serious charges against him, he has not even been called for questioning yet. On the other hand, the incumbent Chief Minister voiced support for [Ashok] Chavan. What does his statement mean? It creates [the] doubt as to whether the government is trying to suppress the matter. We will seek clarity on the Chief Minister's statement,” he said.
Opposition leaders said a huge debt burden of Rs.2.40 lakh crore was staring the State in the face.