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'BJP can stoop to any level to grab power'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
May 27, 2020 09:18 IST
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'Time and again, through their actions, often more covert than overt, the BJP has shown that it is a power-hungry party and its hunger isn't getting satiated sitting in the Opposition.'

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
 

Even as the state reels under the weight of rising COVID-19 positive patients and their deaths, the political drama has heightened in Mumbai as leader after political leader sought to meet state Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at his picturesque abode in Mumbai's tony Malabar Hill.

Be it the Shiv Sena's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who only recently took on the governor for his dilly-dallying over Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's election to the state legislative council, or Nationalist Congress Party strongman Sharad Pawar or former Shiv Sena-former Congress-now Bharatiya Janata Party eader Narayan Rane, all made a beeline to Raj Bhavan on one pretext or another.

A subsequent meeting between Pawar and Thackeray -- which Rane claims did not take place at all and which some insiders say lasted more than 90 minutes -- sent the political class into a tizzy that abided only after Raut tweeted that there was no chance of President's rule in the state or to the stability of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government that the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress had diligently stitched together frustrating BJP leader Devendra Fadanavis's plans to take over the reins of the state again.

Add to that the public spat on and off social media between Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Chief Minister Thackeray and Raut on the other over the mismanagement over allocation of Shramik trains to Maharashtra

On Tuesday, Sachin Sawant, the Congress's spokesperson in Maharashtra, jumped into the fray taking on both Goyal and Rane.

"The government cannot be your enemy, but COVID is. They (the BJP) need to understand that this is a humanitarian crisis. And in this situation, if you are thinking about political opportunism, then it reflects very poorly on your party's ideals," Sawant tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.

How do you look at the speculation about the Shiv Sena-NCP-BJP coming together by sidelining the Congress in Maharashtra?

(Former Maharashtra chief minister) Prithviraj Chavan has clarified that he did not say anything to the effect that this government belongs to Uddhav Thackeray and not the Congress. He has denied it outright.

At a time when the entire state is fighting unitedly against the COVID-19 pandemic, only the BJP and its social media experts can stoop to this level and spread canards about the Congress getting sidelined by the NCP and Shiv Sena and joining hands with the BJP.

First and foremost, we in the government don't have the time to play the kind of politics that the BJP is so infamous for. We need to focus only on COVID now and politics of whatever kind has to be kept out of it.

In this scenario, we would rather not engage in a political slugfest with the Opposition in the state because our foremost priority is fighting the pandemic.

I would rather ignore the speculation that spreads on some social media platforms systematically pushed by somebody's dirty tricks department.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi government is working really hard to give respite to the people of the state in these trying times.

So, we would prefer concentrating on that and let the Opposition play as dirty as they want.

Narayan Rane met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and suggested that President's rule be imposed in the state alleging that Uddhav Thackeray's government has failed to contain the COVID-19 virus.

Time and again, through their actions, often more covert than overt, the BJP has shown that it is a power-hungry party and its hunger isn't getting satiated sitting in the Opposition.

Given this nature of the BJP, they can stoop to any level to grab power in the state.

Definitely, they are trying to discredit the government, and at the same time trying to put a blanket over the Union government's heartless handling of the migrants crisis.

That is why they are staging concerted efforts to damage the image of the MVA government in the eyes of the people.

Even if you look at their protest, which happened a few days back, one may wonder how the BJP can even think about doing it.

The government cannot be your enemy, but COVID is.

They need to understand that this is a humanitarian crisis. And in this situation, if you are thinking about political opportunism, then it reflects very poorly on your party's ideals.

But isn't the MVA government also not playing politics when it comes to taking on Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on the mishandling of management of trains meant to take migrants to their destination? Isn't the Congress also taking potshots at the minister?

Who else shall we blame when he is the railways minister and trains are not reaching the destinations that they are set out for? We are not the ones handling the ministry.

But is it time for the Congress to indulge in such politics? Mistakes happen even in Maharashtra where you are also a part of the ruling alliance? So, what's wrong when the BJP exposes your mistakes?

We just want to say that we (all the political parties and state governments along with the Union government) have to work unitedly to win this war against COVID. The Opposition and government has to come together.

But the problem is the central government is not giving any kind of cooperation (to the Maharashtra government). They are delaying financial aid (to Maharashtra).

They are not giving us medical kits (PPEs or personal protection equipment) or the kind of support which is needed.

They are not facilitating a situation whereby we can actually administer the state and meet various challenges like movement of migrants to their respective states.

If the central government is not cooperating, the Railways is not cooperating, then what should we do to take these migrants home?

The least they can do is give us the support that we have asked for.

Piyush Goyal has consistently maintained that the state government has not provided his ministry the names and destinations of migrants that want to move out of Maharashtra.

That is the biggest lie being propagated by the railways ministry and the minister handling it.

We have already given to the railways a list of 157 trains a day before (May 24) to him.

But the gentleman doesn't seem to have any time for us; neither did he communicate to us about what else we need after we submitted this list of 157 trains to him along with the destinations where they were supposed to take the migrants.

That's the routine procedure. But he wanted the names of the passengers first.

Thereafter, we sent him a list for another 36 trains, but he kept insisting on knowing the names of the passengers, something which has not been directed by his own government.

There was no notification from the Government of India that it was mandatory to provide the names of the passengers travelling in those trains.

The list of travellers is given at the last moment, but Goyal insisted he wanted the list before hand.

Why do they need the names of the people who are travelling? Because they want to stonewall the MVA's genuine efforts and discredit the image of our alliance.

We are demanding consistently that around 180 trains should be given to us so that we can plan smooth and safe passage of migrants back to their homes.

They want us to give them how many trains we want every day. Like today, they will ask us how many trains we want tomorrow.

If we get an assurance for 180 trains then we can work out the logistics without hassling the (migrant) workers. But they want to do everything in a haphazard way, without giving any serious thought to it because that has been the hallmark of the Modi governments since May 2014.

Only yesterday (May 25), the railways informed us that they will be providing us with 32 trains. We told them the number is not sufficient and they must increase the number of trains allotted to Maharashtra.

So, then they increased it to 40, out of which we had reserved six trains for people going to Odisha and West Bengal because of typhoon Amphan.

But they said we will have to cancel those six trains for the time being till the situation improves in these two states.

So, the fact that Piyush Goyal has promised us 125 trains is a lie.

They had given us only 30 trains. When we insisted we want more trains to meet the demand then he (Piyush Goyal) started doing drama.

This minister, who has been absconding for 25 days, suddenly makes an appearance and starts putting unreasonable demands before the state government.

The central government wants to target us (the Maharashtra government) and he is, no doubt, trying to please his bosses after emerging out of 25-day hibernation.

Is the Centre trying to topple the government?

Who knows? But definitely they are purposely creating roadblocks to discredit the MVA government.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is such a party with a difference that it can stoop to any level (to destabilise an elected government).

Despite knowing the seriousness of the pandemic not just in Maharashtra but across the country, they are not providing us money.

The state finance minister (Ajit Pawar) had written a letter to Prime Minister Modi asking for Rs 10,000 crore for the next five months to make up for the revenue shortfall arising out of COVID-19 lockdown. He had also asked for Rs 25,000 crore of assistance from the central government.

We were expecting the (Union) finance minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) to make some provision for the revenue shortfall in her financial package, but that did not come our way.

The legitimate due of the GST amount of Rs 5,040 crore of has not been given to us.

The grant in aid of Rs 11,000 crore from the last year is still pending.

This can put the state in financial problems given the huge health crisis that the state is battling with.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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The War Against Coronavirus

The War Against Coronavirus