Mumbai: The Congress in Maharashtra came under attack from the Shiv Sena, its partner in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, through its mouthpiece Saamana Tuesday.
An editorial in Saamana minced no words in taking on the Congress, which has been openly airing its disgruntlement against the Uddhav Thackeray-led government. It used the metaphor of an “old cot” to describe its ally, and said “old cots creak too much and make a lot of noise”.
The editorial further said that while Thackeray was not power hungry and had not become the chief minister to gain power, the Congress was a “wily party which knows when to grumble and when to change sides”.
The Saamana editorial has made it public that the constituents of the MVA are at odds. The Shiv Sena had so far maintained silence on Congress ministers’ growing disgruntlement against the CM’s decisions, but showed that it felt the criticism was “unwarranted”.
However, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat of the Congress reacted to the editorial by saying: “The chief minister is the head of the alliance and the government. When he hears us out, he too will be satisfied. Saamana should write another editorial; today’s piece is based on incomplete information which sends out a wrong message about us. We are with the MVA.”
Shiv Sena MP and Saamana Associate Editor Sanjay Raut also downplayed the editorial, saying it was the paper’s writing style.
“The coordination in the government is present, all the issues will be resolved after they meet the chief minister, such issues happen at times. Some Congress ministers, especially Ashok Chavan, have said that the officers do not listen to them, they will talk to the chief minister,” Raut was quoted as saying by ANI.
Also read: Why Uddhav Thackeray needs to watch out for Ajit Pawar, not Rahul Gandhi or Sharad Pawar
Thackeray-Pawar bonding and feeling of exclusion
The growing friendship between CM Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has become worrisome for the Congress. The party’s ministers allege that they are neither taken into confidence nor consulted on important decisions; that these are discussed between Pawar and Thackeray and then simply announced.
Pawar has been proactive since the nation-wide Covid-19 lockdown began, and has held numerous meetings with Thackeray on the pandemic situation in the state, the havoc wreaked by the Nisarga cyclone, the agriculture crisis, the migrant crisis, exiting the lockdown, the non-availability of labour, and the impact of Covid on Maharashtra’s economy.
At these discussions, civil servants have been present, but the ministers heading the relevant departments are often absent, said government sources.
Former CM Ashok Chavan, now the public works minister, and Balasaheb Thorat, the revenue minister, have sought a meeting with Thackeray to discuss the issue of the party not being included in the decision-making process, but the CM is yet to fix a date.
Chavan and Thorat have been vocal about not being taken into confidence, with the former saying: “We are a three-party government. Each party should be accorded equal importance.”
Other Congress ministers like Nitin Raut, Vijay Wadettiwar and Sunil Kedar have also spoken about this, and even assembly Speaker Nana Patole had met the party’s former president Rahul Gandhi and updated him about the issues within the MVA.
“This is the ‘Thackeray sarkar’. The Congress is merely there to keep the numbers intact,” said a senior Congress leader.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant added that the party is central to the survival of the state government. “When the Congress is important to hold this government together, it should be accorded equal importance in decision-making. Every minister of the party brings with him or her experience in governance,” Sawant told the ThePrint.
However, Shiv Sena’s Raut denied that the Congress ministers were angry. “Nobody is angry, all ministers stay present during cabinet meetings,” he said.
Also read: Maharashtra govt’s crisis, and how only Sharad Pawar can salvage it now
Chief secretary’s extension
Another reason for the Congress’ disgruntlement is the fact that Thackeray is granting a third service extension to Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, who has been on extension since 31 March. Sources said Congress ministers were kept in the dark when this decision was taken, and that the party is opposed to another extension being given to Mehta, who is said to enjoy the confidence and trust of Thackeray.
The Congress is of the opinion that such service extensions cause a problem in the promotions of other senior civil servants who are in queue, such as Praveen Pardeshi, Sanjay Kumar and Sitaram Kunte.
Sources said Thackeray is in no mood to relent on this matter.
“Ajoy Mehta discusses issues of every department with the chief minister. Often presentations are made at cabinet meetings by the secretaries of the departments without the knowledge of the ministers,” a senior Congress minister told ThePrint.
“Since the chief secretary controls the bureaucrats, it is seen as an infringement of the minister’s rights. If the bureaucrats want to run the show, why does this government need ministers?”
Not working out for Congress
Political analyst Vishwambhar Chowdhari said it is becoming inconvenient for the Congress to remain in the government.
“The cost-benefit analysis is not working out for the Congress. When ideologies and working styles don’t match, this is bound to happen,” said Chowdhari.
There is also a feeling in the Congress that it is Pawar who is running the MVA government, an equation that has pushed his nephew and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to the sidelines.
Although the three parties have stitched together a common minimum programme and set up two coordination committees, all this is only on paper, said sources.
In April, the early days of the pandemic in which Maharashtra has emerged as the worst-hit state, another former Congress CM Prithviraj Chavan brought the rumblings within the MVA into the public domain. “We are a part of this government but this is not our government,” he had told a TV news channel.
Then, in late May, Rahul Gandhi too had endorsed Prithviraj Chavan’s views, saying: “We are supporting the Maharashtra government but we are not in the decision-making role.”
Sources said the next day, Gandhi had called up Thackeray and had a lengthy conversation.
Then, in June, Maharashtra Energy Minister Nitin Raut had reiterated Gandhi’s words in a TV interview, after which Ashok Chavan and Thorat spoke about the issue.
“We will talk to the chief minister about the differences within the MVA. There are other issues too that need to be cleared,” Thorat had told news channels.
Also read: Maharashtra paying a price in Covid because Uddhav Thackeray and Rahul Gandhi stole mandate
Udhav thakarey must fight vidhan sabha election…Then he realise what mess this third class thakrey created in my state…Please come to marathwada to fight VS election….
Congress should learn from NDA. They are always united and supportive to the PM even if the performance of the govt faces criticism. But they never criticise the govt. Congress should be happy with the portfolios they got. Shiv Sena has accommodated them with good portfolios though they were in 4th position. Congress should support Udhav Thakrey to keep BJP out. MVA is working perfectly good under Udhav Thakrey better than NDA. Please Congress should learn from other coalition govt how they are united and working. Congress should stop creating problem to the coalition and make unnecessary controversy in the media and don’t become a laughing stock like you made in Karnataka . Any shortcomings learn to discuss in the forum and sort it out instead of going to the media. Rahul Gandhi should also learn this .
The big mistake made by the SS was to take support from the INC. Idealogically, both the parties are different and it is very difficult for both to sustain togetherness in the same team. I would advise UT to better resign & move on rather than keep on sitting as a lameduck chief of the state.
It’s time for BJP AND SHIVSENA to come together and let UDDHAVJI be CM as he is much liked and a level headed person as well
I guess all the three parties should work together amicably with one main purpose of keeping the coalition together in all circumstances. One should remember that ot is going to be difficult to work together especially when they are three parties with different idealogy , however the purpose is to run the Government with the common moto of the MVA.
Lets keep our differences away and all work for Maharashtra together. Divided we fall, United we stand.
Congress is always pretending. That it is very much an important cog of the alliance. That it is just ‘supporting’ but in no way accountable, though it has many ministers in the government. That Rahul is a ‘Solomon the Wise’ and ‘Kautilya’ rolled into one and Modi is incompetent to rule. That He, Rahul has the key to immediately solving Coronavirus,, Chinese incursions and intransigence, Pakistan’s firing without provocation across the border, migrant workers’ situation, and providing ‘dirt cheap’ Petrol and Gas to all, PROVIDED that HE is made PM right NOW. Any takers?
Shiv Sens did all this and more to BJP when they were in coalition. Karma is coming back to haunt them now. Enjoy.
THE old cot does not creak when it is used for sleeping only.
It starts creaking when things start happening on the cot.
Thackeray was not power hungry, he became CM to fulfill the promise only.
SO now who is doing what on the OLD COT??
What do you expect from this unholy alliance…
There is no governance at all and people are suffering due to Corona..
All the three parties somehow want to stick to power for their own benefit. Otherwise what is the fun in Congress remaining in govt.even after openly getting humiliated and not having any say in decision making…God save Maharashtra…
Better to support government from outside rather than be in it and suffocating.
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