Fortuitous bonhomie likely in Maharashtra legislature session (Curtain raiser)

December 14th, 2008 - 11:57 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNagpur, Dec 14 (IANS) The winter session of the Maharashtra legislature begins here Monday in the backdrop of the horrendous 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai that has forced both the ruling coalition and the opposition to redraw their strategies for the battle - or bonhomie - on the floor.Also in the backdrop is the political upheaval that the terror attack wrought, sweeping out of the saddle Vilasrao Deshmukh as chief minister and R.R. Patil as deputy chief minister and prompting the impetuous chief ministerial aspirant Narayan Rane to stage what has proved to be his last and the most unsavoury rebellion.

This will be the legislature’s last session in Nagpur, the second capital of the state, before the general elections and the first for the new chief minister Ashok Chavan. Nine new recruits in the recently reconstituted cabinet will also face the legislature for the first time as ministers in this session.

While the major issues and unresolved problems facing the state, like power shortage, irrigation backlog and crop failure will be discussed, it is the terror strike and the heightened security concerns that are bound to dominate the session at least in the first two to three days if not longer.

The script for the discussion on the terror strike and the state’s response is seemingly ready and its tone already set by the lofty debate on the issue in the Lok Sabha Thursday - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised to the nation for the loss of innocent lives, Home Minister P. Chidambaram admitted the failure of intelligence and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani assured the government all support in its fight against terrorism.

Back here, the resignations of Deshmukh and Patil owning up moral responsibility for the strikes inflicted on a poorly guarded state capital and some expeditious first steps taken by new chief minister Ashok Chavan to strengthen the police force and the coastal security seem to have robbed the opposition of an opportunity to batter the Democratic Front government over the issue - at least partly.

Given the unprecedented popular anger against the entire political establishment in the wake of the terror strike, seen as the latest in a long series of attacks over the last 15 years under different political dispensations, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine is unlikely to corner the DF government too much on its failure to protect the lives of its citizens and foreign guests.

Considering all this and the fact that the government under a suave Ashok Chavan has not completed even a fortnight in the office, the Opposition, for a change, is likely to refrain from its customary boycott of the customary session eve high-tea this time.

As for the main problems besetting the state - power crunch, crop failure and irrigation backlog of underdeveloped regions - there is hardly anything new either with the Opposition or with the ruling front.

However, with the state assembly elections due next year, the government can be expected to overflow with largesse to compensate the farmers for the heavy loss of mainly the soybean and cotton crops due to widespread pest attack. This may include declaring some areas drought-affected.

On the power crunch and irrigation backlog, mainly in Vidarbha, while the government will do the best it can - proffer statistics to show it has been making relentless efforts to overcome both and that the state will be power-surplus once again in the next two years, the Opposition can be trusted to pick holes in the government contention accusing it of dishonesty and ineptitude.

As for the scheduled business, as many as 2,629 calling attention motions and over 36 bills have been listed. Not all of them are likely to come up with the session likely to be wound up within two weeks - a routine affair in the annual Nagpur session.

The real drama - and some behind the scene maneuverings - will however be outside the state legislature. The man to watch (both inside and outside the house) will be the suspended rebel former revenue minister Narayan Rane who has vowed to finish the Congress or himself!

A glimpse of a possible realignment of forces could also be seen, with the DF partners Congress and Nationalist Congress Party on one hand and allies BJP and Shiv Sena on the other vying among themselves to strengthen their own ranks and poaching all around in view of the forthcoming elections.

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