No signs of bonhomie in Maharashtra legislature session
Nagpur, Dec 14 (IANS) Hopes of solidarity between the Maharashtra government and the opposition on the issue of fighting terror following the Mumbai carnage may not come true if the stance of the two sides on the eve of the state legislature's winter session here is any indication.
The session begins here Monday against the immediate backdrop of the 26/11 terror strike and the resignations of then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his deputy R.R. Patil who held the home portfolio.
The two belong respectively to the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, constituting the ruling Democratic Front. They were replaced by their colleagues Ashok Chavan and Chhagan Bhujbal.
Also in the background is the rebellion of former revenue minister Narayan Rane, suspended from the Congress for leveling allegations against party leaders after being 'unfairly deprived' of his chance to be the new chief minister.
The customary session-eve press conferences of leaders of the government and the opposition bared the listlessness of the new leaders of the state and the confidence of Leader of Opposition Ramdas Kadam and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde.
While Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told reporters that the government would take the opposition into confidence on the issue, neither he nor Bhujbal could say why this was not done earlier - as the central government did before the start of the parliament session Thursday.
On their part, Kadam and Munde, in political oneupmanship, did not let go an opportunity to declare they would extend cooperation to the government if it is sought but will not flinch from exposing the grave security lapses and inaction of the rulers despite repeated warnings.
The two veterans pointed out to reporters that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held three meetings with the opposition leaders to share the government's security concerns and discuss the steps contemplated to fight terror in a foolproof manner.
'He (the prime minister) also sent his home minister to meet Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani while the new leaders in Maharashtra did not talk to us at all,' Kadam said.
In an apparent bid to cover up the lapse, Chavan and Bhujbal said, 'We thought it fit to do something before talking to the opposition and so we initiated certain steps to strengthen the security in and around Mumbai... We will talk to them now.'
The opposition leaders told reporters they politely declined the chief minister's invitation for the customary session-eve tea party as they are yet to recover from the shock of the terror strike that claimed at least 170 lives.
Disregarding Chavan's frantic efforts to stop him, Bhujbal, his senior in politics, told reporters that the state's top police brass came out with suggestions for strengthening the security and intelligence apparatus in four days flat, and that based on the suggestions, the government is ready with proposals worth Rs.1.27 billion for purchase of boats, weapons and state-of-the-art intelligence apparatus to tighten the vulnerable coastal security.
The leaders of the government and the opposition were, however, one on the question of carrying out the legislative business for three weeks to discuss the daunting issues like power shortage and farmers' suicides.
'The change of guard in the state is of little consequence to us. They are leading the same Democratic Front government which is in saddle for nine years with a record of dismal failure on all fronts. We will be unsparing in our attack,' Munde and Kadam said.
Chavan said: 'We are ready to take on both, the opposition and (suspended Congress rebel) Narayan Rane...the government is on firm ground.'
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