While none of the smaller constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government secured even a single ministerial post in the new Cabinet, the leaders of these parties including Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Paksha, Jayant Patil of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and Abu Azmi of the Samajwadi Party were particularly piqued at not being formally invited to the swearing-in ceremony of the new ministers.
Mr. Shetti, an ally of the Congress-NCP in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls expressed disappointment at the slight. He said there seemed to be little to distinguish between the ‘arrogant attitude’ of the erstwhile BJP government and the newly-formed MVA coalition of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.
“While a band has great importance prior to a wedding ceremony, the band members are usually found sitting in a corner after the conclusion of the ceremony. Perhaps something of that sort has happened with us allies. Prior to the elections, we were in demand, but no one [from the MVA] asked after us once the government was formed,” Mr. Shetti said, speaking from Kolhapur.
The farmer leader, who did not attend the swearing-in ceremony, said no one from the smaller constituents of the Congress-NCP — be it his party, Mr. Patil’s outfit or Hitendra Thakur’s Bahujan Vikas Aghadi — had received a proper invite. “It is basic decency to send invites to allies. But it appears that our contribution in helping keep the BJP out of power is not to be recognised,” the former MP from Hatkanangale in Kolhapur said.
“While this does not mean that we plan to withdraw support to the MVA, it does reflects poorly on the new government and certainly does not help distinguish them from the BJP,” Mr. Shetti said.
He also said none of the smaller allies were taken into confidence during the month-long discussions which preceded the Cabinet expansion process. “We had been repeatedly urging them [the Sena, NCP and Congress] to take us into confidence while drawing up the Common Minimum Programme. However, no one paid us heed,” he said.
In the Assembly polls, Mr. Shetti’s party won one seat, while Mr. Thakur’s outfit had returned three MLAs, Mr. Azmi’s party won two seats and the PWP bagged one. After the formation of the MVA government, there was speculation over Mr. Shetti’s party getting the key Agriculture ministry portfolio.
Mr. Shetti wondered whether his opposition to the loan waiver declared by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his party’s independent stance on farmers’ issues was a reason for the snub over the invite. “The waiver declared by the government does not factor in the losses endured by farmers in the Sangli-Kolhapur deluge and the unseasonal showers this year,” he said.
In a similar vein, veteran Ambedkarite leader and MLC Jogendra Kawade, founder of the Peoples Republican Party, said it was unfortunate that allies were being snubbed. “We have only received gate passes for the event. At least the government ought to have given us a proper invitation. However, having fought against the BJP-RSS, we are happy that a progressive government has come to power,” Mr. Kawade said.
He also said he hoped Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the top Congress and NCP leadership would take cognisance of the aspirations of smaller parties in future.