In an indication of rising tensions within the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), the Congress on Sunday made it clear that its engagement with the Shiv Sena was conditional and limited to Maharashtra. Former chief minister and state PWD Minister Ashok Chavan said, “Our alliance in Maharashtra is based on a common minimum programme (C-MP) and limited to Maharashtra.”
His remarks come in the wake of Shiv Sena’s batting for NCP party president Sharad Pawar’s appointment to the UPA chairperson’s post, which has been occupied by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi since 2004.
Incidentally, the NCP has distanced itself from the controversy, with Pawar himself saying that he wasn’t interested in the chairperson’s post.
According to sources, the Congress leadership is miffed with Sena’s repeated unsolicited opinions about its functioning. Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP and Saamana editor Sanjay Raut, had Saturday, taken a public dig at Congress’ lea-dership. Contending that a “weak Opposition” was bad for democracy, Raut had called for expansion of the Congress-led UPA bloc.
Offended by Raut’s remarks, Chavan said, “It is not proper for Shiv Sena to comment on UPA’s leadership.”
The Shiv Sena is yet to become a part of the UPA, he added. “Sharad Pawar himself has denied the speculation that he will be the next chairperson of the UPA. UPA allies trust the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. So, there is no need to discuss the issue,” said Chavan.
Former Maharashtra minister Naseem Khan has also frowned at the Shiv Sena, while reiterating that the party’s alliance in Maharashtra was a conditional one.
Just as the MVA architects keep positioning that the one-year-old alliance was gaining ground, sources said that Cong-ress is also upset at being treated like a distant third wheel, and has now decided to assert itself.
Earlier this month, after several Congress legislators complained to the All India Congress Committee’s (Maharashtra) in charge H K Patil that the party wasn’t being given its due in the alliance, the latter had asked state party leaders and ministers not to take things lying down even from the allies.
Later, during the weekly Cabinet meeting on December 23, the Congress stalled the Sena-led urban development department’s proposal for lowering construction premiums by 50 per cent for a year to boost real estate activity, objecting to not being consulted.
Sonia Gandhi, too, had written to the chief minister on December 14, reminding him that “policies and programmes for the welfare of the Dalits and the Adivasis in Maharashtra is a very important commitment made in the CMP in the MVA”.
Moreover, a few Congress ministers have expressed concerns over being discriminated against by the allies over budget distribution. NCP heads the finance portfolio in the government.
Despite Thackeray’s assertion that the alliance should contest all upcoming local body polls, including the BMC polls, together, Congress’ Mumbai unit is insisting that the party should fight the elections solo. Congress leader and Mumbai (City) Guardian Minister Aslam Shaikh has been writing official letters against “cartelisation” and “officio-contractor” nexus in Sena-controlled BMC.